Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beneath the Facade: A Rare Look Inside the Deteriorating Cincinnati Union Terminal (Part 2)


Photos-Michael Manning


 
Can you imagine? For over 8 decades, this towering strength of Art Deco beauty has welcomed every traveler inside from the heat and cold. Wherever your destination was, you were left with an indelible impression of a city with a deep and proud cultural heritage. There were seven railroads that provided service to Union Terminal: the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O);The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O); the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway; the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N); the Norfolk and Western Railway; the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Southern Railway selected a site for their new station in the West End of Cincinnati near the Mill Creek. Santa Fe ceased offering passenger service in 1960 (it's distinctive red and silver "Chiefs" were repainted in the cargo blue and yellow livery). Today, Burlington Northern is merged with Santa Fe (as Burling Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, or BNSF) and Southern Railway (who purchased the Union Terminal's rear freight yard and carried out demolition of the 407 foot-long Concourse to enable piggy-back freight operations), is now amalgamated into Norfolk Southern. Amtrak offers limited train service from Union Terminal.   
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(Michael Manning)
The beautiful massive neon lit clock.
As with my previous post, I'm grateful to CincyWhimsy for sharing these
photos. You can access them by Clicking HERE. Pictured above is a light
bulb that lights up the hour hand.
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(CincyWhimsy)
As you might expect over 83 years, the face of the clock has shattered,
yet stayed intact as it awaits new glass panes it so richly deserves.  
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(CincyWhimsy)
How many millions of travelers and visitors have gazed up at this clock?
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(CincyWhimsy)
Installed in 1931, the original gearing of the clock remains functional.
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"There were master craftsmen. We don't have master craftsmen anymore."
Actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980)
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(CincyWhimsy)
Tools, circa 1930 to repair and adjust the clock mechanism.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Engineers use this clock to adjust the hands of the massive clock for accuracy.
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(CincyWhimsy)
As the plaster has fallen away, deep cracks from water damage have broken this retaining wall.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Estimates are that what is left of this wall will last only 12 months, if that long.
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(CincyWhimsy)
A weather-beaten hallway.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Another crumbling wall near an old radiator.
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(CincyWhimsy)
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(CincyWhimsy)
A large section of this ceiling has collapsed, creating a serious safety hazard.
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(CincyWhimsy)
Above and below: This is the external Rotunda support wall with cracks that worsen with rain and snow.
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(CincyWhimsy)
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(CincyWhimsy)
Walls and archways where plaster and support materials underneath are subject now to collapse.
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(CincyWhimsy)
How long will this wall be able to support weight-bearing loads?
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(CincyWhimsy)
The Union Terminal deserves a far better fate. Since 1972, it has received a new lease on life and is a viable going concern. It has given much to society and now it is our turn to repair and maintain it for generations to come.
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(Michael Manning)
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Like arms that reach out to welcome a great city, so too we must give back. I believe this is entirely possible: Let's commit ourselves to salvaging the 9 Winold Reiss murals inside Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport's abandoned Terminal's 1 and 2. Further, let's permanently repair Cincinnati Union Terminal and the Cincinnati Music Hall. I am but one voice of concern--a catalyst and a conduit--to increase public awareness, and highlight the need for this action.  
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My Own Emotional Verdict (or Solving the Problem)
In the opinion of this writer, in November, voters in Cincinnati must be given the opportunity to return some sanity to the mess that was recklessly created on August 7, 2014 when  the Hamilton County Commissioners rejected  The Cultural Facilities Task Force solutions to permanently fix Union Terminal and Music Hall. It doesn't take a Harvard MBA to recognize that the knee-jerk reaction of the Commissioners is exactly the type of behavior behind the dumb decision-making over many years that landed the city in a crisis to begin with--and it's embarrassing, even from afar. The People of Cincinnati must take over the reigns in this matter by asking the Commissioners, "How dumb can you be? You've just embarrassed us in front of the national press. We're going to return some intelligence to this situation". Hopefully, they'll override this half-baked adventure in the voters booth.    
 
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The Eyes of  the Nation are Watching 
It bodes well for us to remember that Cincinnati became the first city in 41 years to have two landmarks appear on the National Historic Trust's "11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" list. As I scratch my head over this fact, it occurs to me that other cities with iconic landmarks that share a spot on this list have been closely monitoring the situation in Cincinnati. The Commissioner's decision of August 7th set an example of poor leadership. Stop and imagine what civic leaders and concerned citizens in Richmond, Virginia (Shockoe Bottom), Englewood, New Jersey (The Palisades), Hot Springs, South Dakota (Battle Mountain Sanitarium), Huntington Beach, California (Historic Wintersburg), St. Louis, Missouri (Palladium Building),. Chattanooga, Tennessee (State Office Building), Miami, Florida (Bay Harbor's East Island), Tallahassee, Florida (Frank Lloyd Wright House) and Kona, Hawaii (Mokuaikaua Church) must be thinking!  Could this outcome repeat itself in their city? The answer depends on the intelligence quotient of their elected leaders.
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A Blue Chip Task Force (The Problem Solvers)
I've reviewed the names and credentials of The Cultural Facilities Task Force and they are impeccable. These 22 members volunteered the gift of their time, their presence, and their expertise. Again, it bears repeating that the Task Force members were handed a problem. It wasn't their problem. It was a problem that was allowed to fester over decades of bad decisions that ultimately burdened a great city. No, it wasn't their problem. They didn't cause it. But they were willing to step in and solve the problem that ultimately landed two Cincinnati iconic landmarks on the "11 Most Endangered Buildings in America" list. While the National Trust for Historic Preservation dates back to its founding in 1949, the endangered list was created in 1973. Over the past 41 years, 250 buildings have been saved through the efforts of this non-profit organization. 
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Conclusion: A Comprehensive Solution is the Best Option
The Cultural Facilities Task Force did an exemplary job, and proposed a comprehensive plan that was a solution to a blight on The People of Cincinnati. To dismiss this plan and "kick it to the curb" is a rank obscenity. We can do better that that by reversing the egregious action of two weeks ago, and embrace the comprehensive solutions to save both buildings now. I believe it's a good idea for the uninitiated to have a look at the people who make up The Cultural Facilities Task Force listed below. They deserve our support.
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The Cultural Facilities Task Force Members:
 
Robert A. McDonald -- Proctor & Gamble, Retired Chairman, President and CEO
 
J. Wickliffe Ach -- Hixson Architects, President & CEO
 
Hon. Theodore N. Berry Esq.-- Hamilton County Municipal Court, Judge
 
James E. Evans -- American Financial Group, Director
 
Scott D. Farmer -- Cintas Corporation, CEO
 
William Froehle -- Plumbers, Pipefitters & M.E.S. Local 392, Business Agent
 
Father Michael J. Graham, S.J. -- Xavier University President
 
Thomas L. Guidugli, Jr. - International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local No. 5
(IATSE), Business Agent
 
Robert Killins -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Program Director, Vibrant Places
 
S, Craig Lindner -- American Financial Group, Co-Chief Executive Officer/Co President and Director
 
Timothy J. Maloney -- The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Hale, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation President & CEO
 
W. Rodney McMullen -- Kroger, CEO
 
Kathryn E. Merchant -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, President & CEO
 
Keith A. Oliver -- Kroger, VP-Facility Engineering
 
Mario San Marco -- Eagle Realty Group LLC, President
 
Robert Sheeran -- Xavier University, VP for Facilities
 
John I. Silverman -- Midland Atlantic Development, Managing Principal
 
Murray Sinclaire, Jr. -- Ross, Sinclaire & Associates, LLC, President & CEO
 
Liza Smitherman -- Jostin Construction, VP Professional Development
 
Shiloh Turner -- The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Vice President for Community Investment
 
Kathy Wade -- Learning Through Art, CEO
 
Bernadette Watson -- Community/Government Affairs, Consultant  
 
 
 
 
 
      




 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beneath the Facade: Funding Repairs Runs Into Politics for Two Cincinnati Iconic Landmarks

Photo-Michael Manning
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Basic Common Sense from a Kid Out of the Midwest
You don't need to live 2,000 miles away from your hometown to grasp two basic tax plans at the center of a heated argument to restore two iconic landmarks on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of "11 Most Endangered Buildings in America": Cincinnati Music Hall and Cincinnati Union Terminal. While key constituencies are aligned with a common vision, or what I have termed "being on the same page", a manipulative and ill-conceived 11th hour effort materialized to remove Cincinnati Music Hall from the taxpayer plan. The tragic result of this reckless decision is a plan that delivers far less money to each of the two landmark buildings. In plain English, this plan isn't going to work, and I'll explain why by using basic seventh-grade logic. 
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Identifying the Problem and a Solution
The Cultural Facilities Task Force, a committee of 22 blue-chip members was led by Robert A. McDonald, the retired President and CEO of Proctor and Gamble. This group was comprised of the top talent from Cincinnati's financial, architectural, legal, educational, fund raising, and government affairs sectors. Their assignment was to conduct a 9-month independent analysis of the challenges involved to permanently repair the deterioration of the two world-famous iconic landmark buildings.
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Recommendations were secured by engineering and construction experts. After considerable analysis, the task force created a solution calling for $331 million to repair the buildings. Included in this plan were $20 million from state and federal grants, $46 million in historic tax credits, and $40 million from private donors. If you happen to have a portable calculator handy, then you'll note that this left $225 million to be covered.
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To accomplish this, the task force recommended a quarter-cent sales tax that would run over the course of a little more than decade. This plan was presented to Hamilton County Commissioners for a vote. Further, the task force enhanced this plan by eliminating a $10 million expenditure to repairs originally designated for Dalton Avenue--a local thoroughfare in Cincinnati--from the project, while increasing the total of private donations to $50 million, with an additional $25 million added over 25 years from ticket fees at both facilities. While the ticket fees are obviously a long-term investment, the task force determined that $10 million could be applied immediately. This would reduce the amount needed from the sales tax. If you still have your calculator handy, you've noted (as I did) that this would have reduced the total sales tax component to $195 million. If you remove the ticket fee provision, the sales tax would have equaled $205 million. 
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Music Hall and Union Terminal would have been repaired for between $195 million and $205 million in sales tax, in addition to costs for financing the plan. Private donations, grants and tax credits would cover any leftover costs. The task force did an exemplary job over 9 months of detailed work. What happened? Partisan politics took center stage.
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The Last Supper?
Hamilton County Commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann denounced the scrupulous work of the task force by dropping Cincinnati Music Hall from the renovation plans, alleging that it's not the county's responsibility. Newly elected Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, recently met with Hartmann, a Republican, and Cincinnati Center Development Corporation CEO Steve Leeper over dinner to discuss a compromise. Mayor Cranley left the dinner convinced that all outstanding issues were resolved above and beyond political partisanship, which is always the ideal outcome. Soon after the dinner, Hartmann revealed to The Cincinnati Enquirer that the city wasn't doing enough. This doesn't quite add up--if you'll pardon the phrase. Cincinnati City Council members pledged $10 million in the past for Music Hall, and an additional $10 million for the ongoing maintenance of both buildings (Music Hall and Union Terminal). Mayor Cranley has a valid point by countering that the county may not be doing enough.  
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From a Well Conceived Plan to An Absolute Mess
One of my favorite CEO's, Gordon Bethune wrote a book called "From Worst to First". It was on the New York Times Best Seller's List, and ought to be required reading for university business schools generally, and the Hamilton County Commissioners more specifically, who voted to ruin a perfectly sound solution. Here's a partial quote that I find useful from Bethune: "The first step in solving any problem is deciding whose problem it is. If it's not yours, you can go watch your favorite program on TV and let the people whose problem it is solve it". In the opinion of this author, the problem in this situation belongs to the Hamilton County Commissioners. Here's what they did with that carefully articulated plan submitted by the blue chip member Cultural Facilities Task Force that took 9 months of hard work to create. 
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How Dumb Can It Get? (Pretty Damn Dumb)
Last Wednesday, the Commissioners opted for an alternative plan to put a 5-year, quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot to make repairs to Cincinnati Union Terminal alone. In the process, they ignored a 14-year quarter-cent sales tax that would have helped Music Hall. At the outset, this sounds wonderful to supporters of Union Terminal, like me, but a closer look reveals sheer stupidity. For one thing, this pseudo plan only provides $170 million for renovations to the deteriorating Union Terminal when, in fact, $208 million is required. For another, Mayor John Cranley had the thankless task of educating Hamilton County Commissioners that Music Hall is in the county. "As mayor, I am deeply offended that we are being treated like second class citizens in our own county", he said. "I will not stand for anyone to attack the city when the city is the one who has historically stood up to protect these buildings. We are part of Hamilton County, and Hamilton County Commissioners are supposed to represent us as part of the county", he added. 
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It's All Patch, Patch, Patch from Here On (Unless Voters Say Otherwise)
If this isn't any way to run an airline, it certainly isn't any way to run a city. Shorter term loans and less interest payments (although this hasn't been independently determined) may make certain politicians look good. But burnishing a balance sheet isn't the same thing as acting on a solution. In summary, this outcome is an embarrassing blemish to the 9 month effort by Cincinnati's finest business and civic leaders. They volunteered their time to exhaustively study the problem, and they delivered a solution. Two county commissioners with their own agenda's nixed all of that hard work, and now they have the problem.  
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It's Time to Stand and Deliver
Commissioner Monzel needs to answer these questions:
 
  1. Will this "Plan" permanently restore Union Terminal?
  2. What is the bonding capacity?
  3. What is the construction timeline?
  4. How does "pay-as-you-go" financing impact the project timeline?
  5. Does this delay the construction, and increase construction costs?
  6. What is the impact on the Historic Tax Credits?
  7. What is the status of the City of Cincinnati's commitment?
  8. What is the status of the $40 million in philanthropic commitments to this plan?
It just seems logical to me that an awful lot of those philanthropic donors might be feeling a bit alienated this morning. Before I resume my planned feature, a fitting close to this post is an excerpt from a statement provided by The Cultural Facilities Task Force:
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"The Cultural Task Force plan addressed all of the above issues. We look forward to hearing from Commissioner Monzel about how his pan will address these potential problems.
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"The best solutions are comprehensive. The Cultural Facilities Task Force comprised of civic and corporate leaders volunteered significant time, worked in good faith for none months and our work was literally dismissed overnight.
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"We the Cultural Facilities Task Force, proposed a comprehensive plan and continue to work toward the complete restoration and repair of Music Hall and Union Terminal".       
 
To Be Continued...




 
       

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beneath the Facade: A Rare Look Inside the Deteriorating Cincinnati Union Terminal (Part 1)

Cincinnati Union Terminal
All Photos except where noted are used courtesy of Paige E. Malott and CincyWhimsy, for which this author is greatly indebted. Their Link is available by clicking beneath each photo or HERE. 
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Recap
The fate of Cincinnati Union Terminal has been the focus of an ongoing series on this website that I plan on continuing, until an appropriate consensus is arrived at by civic leaders and the People of Cincinnati relative to funding two Terminal-related issues.
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First, the need for repairs to this 83 year-old iconic structure is reminiscent of a ticking time bomb. Simply stated, the infrastructure behind the facade of what is arguably one of the world's finest examples of Art Deco architecture is falling apart. Decades of natural decay of man made materials have enabled snow, ice, and rain water to weaken and destroy mortar, concrete, dry wall areas and support structures.
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Second, the security of 9 priceless mosaic tile murals created by the German-American artist Winold Reiss remains in question. Originally saved in 1975 from selective demolition of a 407 foot-long Concourse extending behind the Terminal Rotunda, with 16 boarding gates, 15 murals measuring 20' X 20' and weighing between 9 to 11 tons each were in jeopardy. Then-Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer led an effort involving a Save the Terminal group, and through a consortium of state, federal and private sector funding, 14 of the murals were salvaged--one was destroyed. The surviving murals were evacuated and relocated (at great effort) to three terminals at the once-bustling Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. With the decommissioning of Cincinnati as a hub by Delta Air Lines after that carrier's 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines, Terminals 1 and 2 were abandoned, closed to the public, and scheduled for demolition.
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Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's term expired last December, along with an action committee he assembled consisting of architectural preservation experts, historical and business leaders. Cincinnati's newly elected leader is Mayor John Cranley, and I wish him well. Mayor Cranley and I grew up in Cincinnati's West Side. Initial estimates to rescue and reinstall 9 of the 14 murals in danger at the airport, (designated with the three letter code CVG, standing for Covington, Kentucky where the airport I located), are between $5 million to $7 million.
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation
In June, an important development materialized when for the first time in its history, The National Trust for Historic Preservation released a list of "The 11 Most Endangered Buildings in America". Cincinnati, Ohio (my hometown) became the first city to have two buildings on that list: Cincinnati Music Hall and Union Terminal. Initial estimates to repair both buildings is between $280-$332 million (depending on who you speak with). Music Hall was constructed in 1878. Union Terminal was completed in 1931. 
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A Sentimental Place
Given that my late father and uncle owned and operated a small baking company on what is today the Southbound off ramp of Interstate Highway 75 at Gest Street--literally a few blocks from Union Terminal, I grew up with a tremendous appreciation of the Terminals history. It is my favorite place in Cincinnati, and coincidentally, today is the final day for the exhibit: "Diana, Princess Of Wales". It is fitting that Cincinnati's Union Terminal is the final U.S. stop of this remarkable and emotional exhibit of the beloved late Princess Diana. 
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(Cincinnati Museum Center)
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While Union Terminal has been repurposed from a train station of the late 19th and early 20th century as the home of The Cincinnati Museum Center, and is thriving, funding is desperately required to make internal infrastructure repairs. Over two installments here, and with the generosity of CincyWhimsy, it is now possible to take you beneath the majestic facade that is the world-famous Cincinnati Union Terminal. 
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As a major interchange serving seven railroads from the Northwest and Midwestern states to the South, discussions begun in 1890 led to intense lobbying by Phillip Carey president George Crabbs. In 1929, construction began on Union Terminal over a four-year period. Here is a photo of the massive work project underway to construct the Rotunda. Measuring 180 feet wide and 108 feet in height--it remains the largest semi-dome in the Western hemisphere. 
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Public Domain: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, OHIO,31-CINT,29-15
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Ascending the internal engineering stairs to the high steel structural area.
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 The Glass Floor Cat Walk to the Service Areas

 Cracks appear in the wall due to decades of erosion, resulting in snow and rain damage.
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 This Triangular Fitting is actually petrified wood-a decision made by architects for strength.
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 This is the apex of the interior Rotunda
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The interior of the Rotunda from this vantage point. In fact, the largest American Flag in Ohio is mechanical lowered and suspended from this area.  
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 Descent towards the Service Stairs Above and Below
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Our final few photos reveal what is waiting below and ahead in our next installment:
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Structural cracks along the Cat Walk Service Corridor.
 

Above and Below: This deteriorating wall may collapse within the next 12 months. Very little of the outer layer remains, creating a serious condition.
 
Next: We'll continue into the Service Area behind the massive clock and then reveal the external Rotunda Wall outside. With Winter weather ahead, time is of the essence to begin repairs necessary to restore the building's structural integrity. While I am located 2,000 miles away from my hometown, I believe that I can be a catalyst and a conduit for constructive action. For one thing, I remain in contact with major constituencies, and I have access to the worldwide web. This is invaluable towards increasing public awareness of the desperate circumstances at hand, and the need to access funding to carry out repairs. This untenable situation is front page news in Cincinnati on an almost daily basis. Key questions remain. Is an individual homeowner tax the most effective way to access and amortize costs over a period of years? With a new mayor installed, what will his new plan entail? Can we look forward to a reconstituted committee of experts to assist the Mayor of Cincinnati with recommendations for repairing the Music Hall, Union Terminal, and rescuing the 9 Winold Reiss murals now sealed off to the public at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport Terminal 1 (1960) and Terminal 2 (1974)?
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In the opinion of this author, the Office of the Mayor, The Kenton County Airport Board (which is charged with the responsibility of operating the airport), The Cincinnati Museum Center, certainly the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and The People of Cincinnati  are "on the same page" where the subject of preserving our cultural heritage is concerned. There are two County Commissioners, however, who may not be aligned with this viewpoint. Namely, that apportioning funds for both Music Hall and Union Terminal, would bring in the most capital for permanent repairs. If the Hamilton County Commissioners are not aligned with the City of Cincinnati interests, the deep divisions and a sense of donor alienation so evident in other addressing architectural preservation matters could rear its ugly head in Cincinnati. Arriving at a coherent plan for saving Cincinnati's cultural heritage requires long-term solutions, and the outcome of the August 7th vote will be clearly reported on these pages for all concerned.     
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To Be Continued...  
 


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Atlas Air: My Cover Story for Airways Magazine

(Airways Magazine)
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Since I began this blog and website in 2005, I've endeavored to explain, on occasion, how my life, career pursuits, people, and events have become inextricably connected--as one would imagine pieces of string pulled tightly between two push pins.
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I became a broadcaster in 1990. and in 1991, a financial reporter with a segment called "Barron's On Business". Like my news copy, I wrote the financial updates as I would want to hear them over the radio in my home or in my car. Apart from my newscasts, I was handed a program called "The Saturday Main Event" and told to "do something with this". At the time, "Main Event" was nothing more than a defunct program that appeared on a listener calendar in name only. It soon became a cultural arts and music magazine that I hosted and produced with guest interviews. Concurrent to this, in 1994, I started writing for a magazine that was in financial trouble (and went out of business after several ownership changes). Seeing the "handwriting on the wall", I transitioned to Airways Magazine, where I was encouraged to bring my love of the interview format to augment my business profiles for this international commercial aviation magazine. What follows is a brief explanation about how broadcasting, business and the passion of aviation came together for my most recent assignment, the magazine's September 2014 cover issue on Atlas Air.     
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In a business that has been defined by the title of the late Ron Davies book, "Rebels and Reformers of the Airways", one stand-out personality who is featured in that book is Edward J. Daly (1923-1984). At age 27, Daly purchased World Airways, an obscure air carrier from Benjamin Pepper for $50,000 in 1950. Over the next three decades Daly built World into a highly profitable military and civilian air charter carrier. In the 1970's, he set off an airfare war by offering a one-way $99 cross country ticket--nearly half the price offered by other national airlines. 
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Daly and CBS News reporter Bruce Dunning were fated to become men of history. As Vietnam was falling to Communist forces at the end of U.S. military involvement in 1975, Daly himself flew on board one of two World Airways Boeing 727-200 jets on a humanitarian mission, intending to evacuate women and children from Da Nang to Saigon.  A World War II Army Sergeant and a semi-professional boxer, Daly, who often called himself "the Wyatt Earp of the airline industry", flew into Vietnam without approval from the U.S. State Department on March 29, 1975. CBS reporter Bruce Dunning was on board Daly's jet, with a cameraman and a audio engineer. As the planes landed, chaos ensued at the airport in Da Nang, with desperate refugees speeding towards the aircraft. Daly, brandishing a 38 caliber revolver was filmed punching men off the lowered rear air stairs, as elderly women and children were pushed aside. In the mayhem of bullets and a grenade that exploded damaging a wing, the plane, designed to seat 150 passengers, departed with 268 people in the cabin and another 60 in the cargo hold.
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What drew me to watch the YouTube video of the CBS News broadcast of that dramatic day was another story that unfolded on March 27, 2014. World Airways had ceased operations during bankruptcy and announced it was liquidating. Another carrier, Evergreen International, which also had military charter contracts, shut down three months earlier on January 1st. As I pondered the demise of these two competing airlines, I noticed that one company in Purchase, New York had remained profitable as the only ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance) carrier offering the new Boeing 747-8 series aircraft. So, I studied the company and asked my Editor-In-Chief at Airways if I could have a shot at writing an article on the company. I also had a number of questions to ask Atlas Air CEO William J. Flynn, and my interview was soon underway. 
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Ed Daly died in 1984 at the age of 61. World Airways, a major part of Daly's life, shut down after 64 years with only 9 aircraft. CBS News reporter Bruce Dunning died on August 26, 2013 from injuries sustained in a fall. He was 73. 
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As any writer will tell you, 75 percent of any story involves research. The remaining 25 percent involves reporting the facts. As each piece of the puzzle came together with this story, it was impossible for me not to "relive" the events as if they were part of a movie. I imagined the what Bruce Dunning must have experienced with his television crew on board the World Airways jet. There was, of course, film of the maverick Ed Daly to observe. For  Evergreen International Airline's Delford Smith, I had only print materials to pore over and think about (Smith insists that he will return Evergreen to the skies)--all of which makes my point. Namely, that there is a drama behind most every business story headline. Atlas Air is truly a survivor, having endured some dramatic events of its own. It's all straight ahead at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore or fine newsstand near you.
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Airways Magazine is currently distributed through newsstands in North America and 35 nations worldwide, reaching subscribers in more than 60 countries.

 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Interview: Screenwriter Jeb Rosebrook

Screenwriter Jeb Rosebrook
Photo-Jeb Rosebrook



Image: 20th Century Fox
(Above): Steve McQueen stars in this Sam Peckinpah-directed film as the title character, an aging rodeo cowboy who returns to his small hometown of Prescott, Arizona during the annual "Frontier Days" Fourth of July rodeo only to discover that the family and culture he once knew is rapidly slipping away. An outstanding cast includes Ida Lupino and Robert Preston as McQueen's estranged parents, Elvira and Ace, Ben Johnson (who had just wrapped filming of "The Last Picture Show") as a livestock broker for rodeo's, Joe Don Baker as a shameless opportunist brother, who is getting rich by selling parcels of his father's land to develop a mobile home park, and Barbara Leigh as McQueen's love interest, Charmagne. Peckinpah was eager to change his reputation as a director of violent films, and had recently completed filming "Straw Dogs" in London with Dustin Hoffman. The screenplay was written by Jeb Rosebrook, who was enlisted to stay on the movie set for the ten week shoot. 
 
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Photo: Prescott Film Commission
Steve McQueen (1930-1980) on set in Prescott, Arizona.
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Jeb Rosebrook began his professional writing career as a writer-trainee with NBC Television in New York in 1956. In the ensuing years,. he has been published as a novelist and playwright, and as a journalist with Arizona Highways and True West magazines. The majority of his career has been spent in film and television. Among his numerous credits are the Steve McQueen film, "Junior Bonner", Disney's "The Black Hole", television films and the mini-series, Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler", "Mystic Warrior", the re-make of "Miracle on 34th Street", "A Hobo's Christmas", and "The Winds of Kitty Hawk".
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Jeb was nominated for two Writers Guild of America television awards for his two-hour episode of "The Waltons", "The Conflict" (Season 3, 1974) and his adaptation of the novel "The Price of Central Park". He was nominated for an Emmy Award as co-writer of "I Will Fight No More", the story of Chief Joseph. He has taught screenwriting in the graduate school of Creative Writing at ASU and Scottsdale Community College. Currently, he is the author of the just published novel "Purgatory Road and the screenplay, "Willa", based on the life of Willa Carter. Jeb Rosebrook is an Alumnus and Trustee of The Orme School (a central Arizona boys college prep school for grades K-12 located on 26,000 acres of a working ranch).  I opened our visit by mentioning Jeb's 2007 commencement address to Members of Cum Laude, students, faculty, parents and friends of The Orme School. Rosebrook attended the school at the age of 9 after his family relocated from Connecticut to Phoenix.
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Manning: I wanted to ask about your travels across America and how your quiet observations of people and their circumstances would later influence your writing. Your key mentors were the Orme Family.
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Rosebrook: Yeah, I was very lucky. My father was in advertising in New York. He was Vice President of Young & Rubicom. My mother had been on Broadway briefly in 1924, and the later she was with International News Service which was acquired by United Press. Basically, the people at the Orme School who ran the ranch--the man whose Chapel I spoke in--Mort Orme was my advisor. I always liked to write, because I was an asthmatic and stayed at home a lot and liked to write my own comic strips I had drawn and I loved to read. I guess it was really when my parents gave me a station wagon years later --I mean, how many kids have parents loan them their car to take off and drive all across the country by themselves when they've never been more than 85 miles miles away from home!
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Manning: That had to be a wonderful experience.
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Rosebrook: Willa Cather once said that everything you experience between age 8 and 15 is what forms the writer and I think that's true.
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Manning: That's interesting. My first essay was a piece I had written in the 4th grade about my brother called "Hot Summer In Vietnam". And I still have that framed on my dining room wall at home.
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Rosebrook: Yeah, and that's when I started writing at 9 years-old. Did your brother come home okay?
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Manning: He did, yes. Thank you. Your name is prominently displayed on the mural inside The Palace Bar (the Prescott, Arizona bar where key scenes of "Junior Bonner" were filmed). A group of us visited one weekend with author Marshall Terrill.
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Photos--Michael Manning
(Taken June 20, 2014)
 
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Rosebrook: That mural was done originally, sometime in the 70's or early 80's when The Palace was still in the throes of really not doing very well. The bar next door, Matt's is still a pretty strong cowboy bar and The Palace had gone through a number of owners. It was a punk bar at one time. The mural did not have my name on it. Peckinpah's was and Steve McQueen's was. When Dave, the owner, bought The Palace--he was out of Newport Beach, California. The mural was behind an area where they would shoot baskets near a shuffleboard and it was really covered with layers of smoke. So, when Dave and his partners bought it, they cleaned up the mural and added my name. You know, it gives you an idea of the stature of the writer (mutual laughter).
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Manning: You know, I was going over your credits as a screenwriter for film and television and I kept trying to find a thread that would lead me to your original four-page treatment called "Bonner" that would eventually become the McQueen movie. What inspired you to write "Bonner"? Did you have someone on your mind, or was it someone that you met?
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Rosebrook: Not really. As far as rodeos are concerned, when I was in Orme we had roundups in the Fall. But in some ways, I was a real little cowboy. In high school, I went to at least one junior rodeo. I've been to rodeos before in Madison Square Garden in New York with my mother. But the couple of summers that I worked at Orme as a ranch hand, I went to the Prescott Rodeo. In 1970, I went up there and I had not been to a rodeo since 1955. We were pretty busted financially. I was still trying to sell something. I sold an option of a script to James Coburn--my first script. That kind of gave me a leg-up on at least getting in the door with an agent. What really struck me was driving outside of Prescott that day and seeing the homes being built in Prescott Valley. There were then about twelve-hundred people living in Prescott Downs and homes were being built all over the place with banners and signs. That really somehow subconsciously--I connected the rodeo with that. It just somehow came about that somebody who was from there, who was coming back and who had a brother in real estate who was a developer making his first million, and the other brother was in the rodeo--that's kind of the way it all came about. I have a very good friend who is a poet in Colorado who told me one day that the majority of my writing really reflects the fact that I left home when I was 9. I was never back home more than three months a year. Many of the things that I've written really have to do with the loss of land, of the way things were--even if you take "I Will Fight No More Forever". It's the story of Chief Joseph, the chief of the Nez Perce Indians. They were not the Christian branch of the Nez Perce that had been baptized. He wanted to be free. It was a year after the Battle of Little Big Horn. The Army gave General Howard--who I think was from Cincinnati--Howard was a one-armed General and he wanted Joseph to stay on the reservation. Joseph didn't want to do it. So, he and the Nez Perce band took off. It was a year after Custer, and America became alarmed that the band of Nez Perce was loose. They still teach his battle tactics at West Point. He ended up going through Yellow Stone. They were trying to meet with Sitting Bull who had gone to Canada after Little Big Horn. They got within 40 miles of Canada. They had more women and children than anything. They decided to stop and rest before entering Canada and that's where General Miles and the Army caught up with them. That was, in a sense, the same kind of story.
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Manning: Sure.
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Rosebrook: "The Waltons" was Earl Hammer--whom I've known since I was 21 years-old--he created "The Waltons". So, I had a chance to write about Virginia on that (television) series. I was able to incorporate some of my own experiences into many of the things I was lucky enough to be able to write. One of "The Gambler" episodes I did with Kenny Rogers--I rewrote a guy in 1987 who had written a script that was un-shootable. It was a forced march. I was writing while they were filming. But it was about Sitting Bull and how The Gambler had to go see Sitting Bull--it was about the death of Sitting Bull. So, I wrote at least three Native American pieces. I'm not sure I could do that today because of political correctness.
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Manning: One question I feel everyone reading this will want to know is this: What  was it like for you to work with Steve McQueen?
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Rosebrook: Well, the most vivid memory I have is just being called into his trailer that last couple weeks of filming before we did that big dance and fight scene in The Palace Bar. Actually, it was the scene where he was dancing with Barbara Leigh. That's when he asked me, "By the way, why am I called Junior?" Now, this is August. The previous November, I had started writing the script about "Junior Bonner". Incidentally, it wasn't until I started writing the script that the father showed up, then the dog--I still have no idea how this got there! He had a way of wanting to do dialogue in his own way. So, here was the scene and I couldn't answer his question, and I thought I was going to catch hell for that. I mean. 'Who do you think you are? A big-time writer who wrote the script and you don't know who Junior is?' He just said, "Okay". Then we went out and filmed the scene and I believe the way it went was--I believe you know that Barbara and Steve were not exactly strangers. They knew each other well enough to have this dance and this kind of 'let it fly' --so to speak. In the process, she says "Why do they call you Junior?"
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Manning: I remember that.
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Rosebrook: And Steve said "I don't know".

Manning: In the phone booth.
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Lobby Card--20th Century Fox
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Rosebrook: Yeah, in the phone booth, that's right. Now, that's a memory! (mutual laughter). There were others where we had been working for two weeks and he wanted to work on changing some of his dialogue with Ida Lupino. Although I was there, those are the things that Steve may have consulted with (director) Sam Peckinpah. He knew in his mind what he wanted to do and he wanted to try it out. I don't think Steve was a Method actor.
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Manning: No, I don't either.
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Rosebrook: But he certainly came from instincts. That day all afternoon--I think Bill Pierce (former Vice Chair of The Prescott Film Commission) took you by the house--and Ida Lupino was one of the very first women directors, and she was a real pro. She knew her lines. And she wasn't going to budge from the way she knew her lines. He'd fool around with his lines and kind of throw her off. They filmed all afternoon. In filming terminology, when you have a scene that works you "print it". If you have a scene that might work, you put a "hold" on it. The whole afternoon it was all "holds", there were no prints. When he left--you remember that kitchen scene with the apple pie?
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Manning: Oh, yeah!
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Rosebrook: She said "You better know your lines tomorrow or your going to eat a hell of a lot of apple pie". So, he came by the next day and (snaps his fingers) it went like that.
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Manning: She didn't work for 6 years before "Junior Bonner".
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Rosebrook: Longer than that. She had done a Clifford Odetts movie based on his play "The Big Knife" in 1955 about Hollywood. And Marty Baum who ran ABC Pictures originally had Susan Hayward in mind. Susan Hayward came out and met with Peckinpah, (producer) Joe Wizan and me for lunch. I mean this story's been told many times. We were so impressed with being with Susan Hayward that we didn't talk about the movie! So, she didn't think we wanted her and she went home to Florida. Then Marty thought about Ida Lupino--and that I think turned out to be a great choice. Because Ida was a consummate actress. She and Robert Preston had worked in motion pictures early on. I wish we had a tape recorder there.
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Early on in filming, Bill Holden was living in Palm Springs. He drove up from Palm Springs to Prescott to see Sam because they had met on "The Wild Bunch". So, he had a dinner for Bill Holden and it was really something to sit there and listen to Holden, and Robert Preston and Ida talking about their days when they were under studio contract. But with McQueen, I think the toughest time---there was a lot of concern. Steve had been involved with firing Sam Peckinpah off of "The Cincinnati Kid" years before. Norman Jewison, who was a much more experienced director took over and did a great job. So there was a lot of 'What's going to happen between these two guys?' And actually they hit it off very well, because there was no press around. I think there was no press around because Steve had just split from Neile (Adams) and he wanted a summer to himself.
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Photos-Michael Manning
The Railroad Depot is today the "Depot Marketplace" in Prescott. The tracks are long gone from the back of the property, and a Hospice Center administrative office is a tenant in the left-hand portion of the building.
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One of the best scenes ever filmed in Hollywood took place through this rear arch way, between Steve McQueen and Robert Preston sitting on a bench where the rock appears today.
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 Image-20th Century Fox
When it came time to do the scene at the railroad depot, the rehearsal--here was Robert Preston who knew all of his lines--Sam had written some of the other lines in there about the whore house in Nevada. But most of the other lines were mine. I had a fraternity brother named Dan Cox. And I saw him last year for the first time in years. I said to him, "Dan, I made you famous". Dan would have a few drinks at a fraternity party and say "As long as sex lives, my name will never die" (mutual laughter). So, I used that in that scene. Steve says, "You remember Bob Cox?" Steve was having a very difficult time--and I think it was maybe his relationship that he never had with his father--that was a pretty personal scene in which Robert Preston wants to go to Australia and Curly won't send him, so he thinks he can hit Junior up for the money and Junior doesn't have any money. The rehearsal was very difficult.
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Image above and below-20th Century Fox
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Steve could not--would not put his arms around that scene. I don't want to go into the whole thing, but finally he put on his shirt--because lots of times he never wore a shirt--that guy was really put together--considering how much he smoked and all that. Once they did the scene--one of the things that was added was the day before, Sam and I sat and talked about what the scene was about. One of the things that's key about that scene was that maybe there was something about me and my father in there. You know, I wasn't always with my father and Sam said. "You know when my father got upset with me"---Sam had grown up on a ranch--"he would cuff my hat off my head". Did you know about this?
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Manning: Oh, yeah.
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Rosebrook: That's how that happened. In the end, it is a powerful scene put together by Steve's feelings, Preston's work and Sam's cuffing the hat when the train comes through. It was really well done.
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Manning: He makes you feel that emotion, doesn't he? When he turns and shuts his eyes as Preston walks across the track just as the train passes.
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Rosebrook: It's the first time, I think--I can't be sure about this--that may have been as close as Steve McQueen ever came to crying in a movie. And then at the end of it he said, "We're going to do the wild cow milking together". And only once did he call him "Pop". Throughout the whole movie, he (Robert Preston) was "Ace". He never could call him Dad. Now, whether that's the way he wanted to do because that's the way he felt, I don't know. And as I mentioned the other night--the last time we were filming Steve was the opening of the movie--the thunderstorm, the car. He ended up in Jerome. Jerome is a mining town on Mingus Mountain near Prescott. It's really an interesting old town. Steve never had any money. And he asked me to buy him a six-pack of beer (mutual laughter). The other memory was when he met my daughter, Catherine, who was 5 at the time. We were outside the motel where we were staying, and Dorothy was with me and Steve was there. And Catherine, my daughter, was so shy and she held her head down and Steve put his hand on her head. And to this day, she says she met Steve McQueen but she never saw him!
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 Image above and below-20th Century Fox
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Manning: I can't think of a better supporting cast than Ida Lupino and Robert Preston...
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 Ben Johnson and Steve McQueen
Images above and below-20th Century Fox
 
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Rosebrook: ...And Ben Johnson! There were two great things about Ben Johnson. The first, when we were doing rehearsals for a week, Steve told everybody "This guy sitting here right next to me is going to win an Academy Award this year. I saw the rough cut last week of 'The Last Picture Show' and he's going to win the award." Secondly, Steve nailed me again. Once in a while, I can come up with a good line. Like, at the end of the fight (scene) somebody said "What do we do now?" and I said "Let's play 'Star Spangled Banner'--let's play something patriotic". And I wandered over to the bar when Robert Preston says "Up to the mouth, over the gums, look out stomach here she comes. If this world's all about winners, what's for losers?" I had a line in there and Steve didn't like the line. So he said, "Give me a line". Finally, Ben was sitting next to Steve and he said, "Some body's gotta hold the horses don't they?". Now, he had probably stolen that from John Ford, but it worked! That in essence, when it works is what movie making can be about. A lot of writers don't go on location because the directors and the actors don't want them there. Because they can be a pain in the ass, they want lines changed. You really can't bring your ego with you, because it really is a collaborative effort. That's a good Steve memory--when he nailed me and when I bought his beer.
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Manning: Was it Old Milwaukee?
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Rosebrook: No, it was Miller. We had a contract with Miller, Coca Cola and Wild Turkey in that film. If someone was drinking a beer, it was Miller. If they were drinking Cola it was Coca-Cola and if there was someone drinking the hard stuff, it was Wild Turkey.
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Photos: Barbara Leigh
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Manning: Barbara Leigh and I discussed the ending, and I told her about being 14 years-old and being in the movie theater with my next door neighbor who was my buddy as a kid, and we couldn't get over her beauty for weeks! We couldn't possibly understand how or why Steve's character dropped her off at that small airport, put her on a plane and said he had to get on down the road!
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Rosebrook: There's another one in the next town.
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Manning: Barbara Leigh? Not as far as we were concerned! (laughter).
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Rosebrook: Or why he didn't take her to El Paso? No. Steve and Sam were hell bent on getting Ali MacGraw for "The Getaway". And (Peter) Bogdanovich had backed out of directing Steve and Ali in "The Great Gatsby". So, they kind of conspired because she kept turning down that script. It was written and re-written. That's what I understand. I mean, I wasn't there.
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Manning: Is this the film that most people mention most to you in your career?
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Image: Walt Disney
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Rosebrook: Oh, yeah. Because I haven't done many movies. Now, they bring up "The Black Hole" a lot. When it came out, I was in a bookstore in L.A. for a book signing---by somebody else---and there was a Science Fiction nut there. And those people can really be screwy. I said, "You know, I was involved in writing--because I was the fifth or sixth writer--one of the worst Science Fiction movies of all time". And he said "What's that?" I said, "The Black Hole". Well, "The Black Hole" now is pretty popular. I've heard now they're going to try and remake it. They should. When "Junior Bonner" was not a commercial success, I had a thing that I always regret. I was sent over to meet with Jon Voight's manager and I kinda wish that there was something that I could have come up with for Jon Voight. My career then went into television because "Junior Bonner" was a critical success, but not a financial success. And the next thing I knew, I had an opportunity to rewrite "Miracle on 34th Street"--which was nice because you're not typecast. I had grown up in New York, and I was able to take my knowledge of writing ads for a department store and kind of update what the original "Miracle" was.
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Manning: Are you surprised that "Junior Bonner" has become so enormously popular in DVD sales over the past 9 years? It now enjoys a type of cult status.
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Rosebrook: Really? I do know that it's been on DVD and video before that. It changes production companies on the DVD about every three or four years. Somebody has rights to it, then somebody else takes it over. I've never even seen the Commentary as a matter of fact. I have it at home but I've never watched it. It's amazing to me that I was never asked to do a commentary. Garner Simmonds wrote the first book on Peckinpah, and I know he's in there. I am surprised and I'm not surprised.
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One of the reasons, there's a guy named Mike Clark who writes movie reviews for USA Today , and after 9/11 he wrote a list of "10 Movies People Should See" to give them a feeling about how they should feel about America and "Junior Bonner" was one of them. Clark has been a big fan of "Junior Bonner" and I've written to thank him because every time it comes back on DVD, he writes a beautiful thing about it. Steve felt it should have been released as an art film--a big release but in small theaters and let its audience grow. In the years since, it has grown. I didn't want it advertised as a rodeo movie. There have been two other rodeo movies, "The Honkers" and "J.W. Coop" and rodeo movies, historically have never made any money". Somebody has told me that there's never been a submarine movie that's lost money. But on the other hand, there's never been a car racing movie or a rodeo movie that ever made money. I felt it was a form of family drama. It just so happened these people were in the rodeo. After all, one of them is in real estate. And it was about change--there's no doubt about that. Family dynamics. I originally saw Warren Oates and Strother Martin (laughter). I liked smaller movies. When they said "We're going to use Steve McQueen", I said "Oh, that'll be another Steve McQueen movie". It was about this time, maybe two weeks later, I had finished writing "Junior Bonner" but I was still rewriting scenes. So, I came home from lunch one day--my office wasn't too far from home, and (my wife) Dorothy said "Joe Wizan just called and you're to pick him up to go to Steve McQueen's house tonight". I didn't have time to reflect on this at the time. I picked up Joe and here I am at Steve McQueen's house.
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Manning: This is in Brentwood or Palm Springs?
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Rosebrook: Brentwood. That's when Neile was making dinner for the kids and that's when Steve was outside doing something. He comes in and sits down and immediately--doesn't waste any time and gets into the script. Finally, he looked at Joe and he looked at me and said, "Why doesn't he take notes?" And Joe covered really well and said , "Well, Jeb remembers everything. He'll go home tonight and write this down". But Joe was sweating a little.
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Manning: You never stayed in touch with him after the film?
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Image-20th Century Fox
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Rosebrook: He wasn't a guy to stay in touch with a writer. Not Steve. I mean, I was a tool. And I don't want to put myself down. But I was a vehicle to get into this movie and to get Peckinpah into it and to get the cast into it. The Barbara Leigh story was really a story about a girl who worked in a bank in Phoenix, and her life was kind of dull, and she had a Volkswagon, and she came to Prescott to raise a little hell and have some fun and maybe meet somebody. So, she meets "Junior Bonner". And most of the scenes in The Palace are really personal scenes between Steve and the girl. Sam decided they needed more action, so he said, "Let's have a fight". We also said, "Let's throw in that she's a rich girl"--that she's on the arm of a rich guy. I think that whole scene about, "Hey, you're Junior Bonner"-- taking pictures'--it wasn't--I didn't want that in there. He's with the dog by the horse trailer and the guys walk up with the camera.
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Manning: Oh, yeah..."We go back six years ago", and "Well, I'll tell ya, six years is a long time".
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Rosebrook: That was Sam...it works. But it wasn't real to me. One of the things I will take credit for is that some of the music in there, I had written into the script.
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Manning: I've thoroughly enjoyed this Jeb.
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Rosebrook: Thank you, Michael.
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 Jeb Rosebrook's New Book in 2014
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Jeb Rosebrook's newly-released book, "Purgatory Road: On the Road Between Heaven and Hell (The Charlemagne Trilogy)" is about life in 1950's Arizona. You can find it on Amazon.com.