Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Birth of A Christmas Carol

Christmas came on a Friday in 1868.
The Sunday School children of the Episcopal Church of Holy Trinity, on Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, stood up at their special holiday service, and sang a little song. It was especially written for the occasion, by the pastor of the church and the organist. It was a simple Christmas song. Nobody expected it ever to be heard beyond the walls of Holy Trinity.
The children had rehearsed the song on the previous Sunday morning. “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” it began, “how still we see thee lie.” This Christmas, the 140th Christmas since that day, hundreds of thousands of Christians and many creeds and languages will sing the carol that the children first sang at Holy Trinity. The Sunday School song that became a traditional carol was born in the upstairs rear apartment at 113 Walnut Street. That was the residence of the Rev. Phillips Brooks, rector of Holy Trinity. Mr. Brooks had just turned 33 on December 13, and was already pastor of an impressive 11-year-old church on fashionable Rittenhouse Square. He would go on to become bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts and a leader of the Episcopal Church. He had just come back from a trip to the Holy Land. The sights and sounds of the actual location of the Christmas story were on his mind.
So was the upcoming Sunday School program. Mr. Brooks sat at his desk and began to write a poem. Perhaps, he thought, his organist, Lewis H. Redner, could write an appropriate melody for it. The song would have to be finished by the Sunday before Christmas, so the children could learn it. Four verses he wrote, picturing the everlasting light of the Nativity illuminating the dark streets of quiet Bethlehem.
He gave the poem to Redner, who said he would see what he could do. Redner was a real estate man, with an office at 735 Walnut Street. He was jolly, mustachioed bachelor. His friends called him “Bubbles.” He was known for donating peanuts in bushel quantities to the students of the Episcopal Divinity School, and for conducting midnight religious services for the employees of the Philadelphia Gas Works. On the Friday before the day for rehearsal, the rector asked his organist, “Have you ground out that music yet?
“No,” Redner replied, “but I’ll have it by Sunday.”
He kept thinking about it, but when he went to bed in his residence at 1711 Spruce Street, Saturday night, he still had no finished idea. “But I was roused from my sleep late in the night,” Redner wrote later, “hearing an angel strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper, I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning, before going to church, I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas 1868.”
(This story was written by my friend, James Smart, for the Philadelphia Bulletin 12/22/68 on an anniversary of the carol. He called to ask me if I was related to Lewis Redner, and I was happy to report that he was my great, great uncle, according to family folklore.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Giardello statue announced

PHILADELPHIA (December 2, 2008) – Former middleweight champion Joey Giardello will be honored with a life-sized statue on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia in 2009.

This Sunday, December 7, 2008, a ceremony is scheduled for 11:00 AM to officially announce the statue project at the future site of the monument – the triangle of East Passyunk Avenue, South 13th Street, and Mifflin Street. Both the public and media are welcome to attend.

The December 7th event date commemorates the 45th anniversary of Giardello’s winning of the middleweight championship in 1963. At the event, Giardello will be remembered, the statue location will be dedicated, and refreshments will be served.

The statue project is a non-profit effort being conducted by a partnership between the Veteran Boxers Association – Ring One, the Harrowgate Boxing Club, and the Web site Philly Boxing History.com. 1st District Councilman Frank DiCicco cleared the way for the group to use the East Passyunk location and is supporting the project completely.

World-renowned artist Carl LeVotch has been commissioned to create the statue of Giardello. LeVotch is responsible for numerous artistic works throughout the world, including such boxing-related pieces as “The Spirit of Boxing”, “The End of the 9th”, and the “Briscoe Award.”

Giardello, who became champion by defeating Dick Tiger at Atlantic City’s Convention Hall, was born in Brooklyn but lived most of his life in South Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, NJ. Giardello passed away September 4, 2008.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Memory Keeper's Daughter

As research for my Down But Never Out bio of former middleweight champion, Joey Giardello and his Down syndrome son, Carman, I watched Memory Keeper's Daughter. The movie based on a book by Kim Edwards tells the story of a doctor who gives away his new-born baby daughter when he sees that she has Down syndrome. He tells his wife the baby died and they go on with their life raising the "normal" twin boy. I read the book some time ago and now must read again. It was based on a true story told to the author. Watch or read it and be prepared to cry.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My wife need jewelry

A thought:

My wife needs jewelry
By Charlie Redner

My wife needs jewelry
But not like food and air.
No, no the wants much stronger there.
Her line between need and the desire
is infinitely closer than flame is to fire.

She follows the impulse to trade
or swapped the pin that somehow failed to inspire,
to exchange some earrings might be required.
A bracelet, a necklace, a ring or two
replaces the ones that now no longer do.

Will the search for gold and silver,
diamonds and pearls, ever cease?
This spouse can only hope that need and desire,
are distinguished some day,
one from the other, before we go broke, or I expire.

Monday, November 3, 2008

An eastern city man arrived in Old Pueblo

An eastern city man arrived in Old Pueblo to speak.
Will you read on if I utter what he professed to be,
or, least we judged, not to be?
I’ll take the chance -- a poet.

His name sounded like a south sea island,
Maui, or Bali, ahhh, no, no -- Mali.
Now, Mister Mali was a Letterman, more in the mode of the nighttime host than the singers or a campus jock.

His letters though, formed words that arrived in specific order.
An order that held one’s attention bound, bound as tightly as a body wrapped with duct tape smeared in super glue.

Words that moved -- or not.
Words that spun fasterthanSupermantryingtosaveLois,
where they arrived in a flash only to ricochet ‘round the head.
Words that -- c r a w l e d - in - s l o w - m o t i o n -- penetrating your mind a Technicolor, animated, Cinemascope, surround-sound, four-hour feature film.

On the spot he wrote a piece about a tractor guy,
then spoke of his Dad, the Yalie, who never attended the Ivy Tower of bushy presidents,but organized the keys to his glorious own universe.

Dining one night, Mali mentioned to his host how much he made teaching,while at the same time enlightening the clod how little -- money mattered when making a difference.

He told about tapping his dog on the snout, tough Love,
then heaping praise on a silly Lilly.
She a flower of an eighth-grade child who couldn’t,
but finally did, like, make up her mind.

Mali’s story about the student whose spell checker failed to correct and even added to the mess the boy made of his report entitled, A Tail of Two Tities, produced more unbridled laughter than the best-crafted,
perfectly delivered Leno monologue.

If, by chance, you were there -- you know of what I speak.
If not, then you may never appreciate this sentiment:
I just loved you, Taylor Mali. Thank you for sharing you.

And thanks, Society of Southwestern Authors for inviting an eastern city man to the Old Pueblo -- to thrill.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Tribute to a Fallen Agent

Border Patrol agent, Luis Aguilar was killed during the line of duty in January 2008. On Saturday, October 11th, his comrades, family and friends paid tribute to him during the dedication ceremony of the new Buttercup Ranger Station located in the California sand dunes just west of Yuma, Arizona. Mrs. Aguilar attended with her two children and delivered a brief, tear-filled eulogy.
Every off-duty BP agent, ranger, state trooper and deputy sheriff within a hundred miles attended. I haven’t seen so many cannons since leaving the 50th Armored Division. “Luis Aguilar” street, named for the fallen hero will now serve as a permanent reminder of the agent, father and loving husband.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A word from Timothy Shriver

Rosalie Tilelli, Joey Giardello’s wife received a beautiful letter of condolence from Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics. He mentioned how much Sargent and Eunice Shriver appreciated Joey’s contributions in time and fund raising efforts on behalf of the Special Olympics.

This letter reminded me that St. Martin’s Press requested blurbs, an introduction and/or a foreword for Down But Never Out. Letters from me will soon go out to Timothy Shriver and John C. McGinley, star of SCRUBS who is the 2007-08 national spokesman for Buddy Walks, which raises money for Down syndrome organizations.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

SSA Tucson Conference 2008

The Society of Southwestern Authors just concluded its 2008 Conference (September 27 and 28). A better time for any writer could not have been experienced anywhere, anytime.
My sides still hurt from laughing at the genius of guest speaker, teacher/poet, Taylor Mali. The ‘can’t miss’ future poet laureate will stand beside Billy Collins (2001-03) as one of the two quirkiest poet laureates in recent history. He kept his engagement with SSA even as an urgent call from Norway beckoned him across the big pond immediately after.

Corey Blake, screenwriter and co-author of 12 books dazzled a lunchtime audience with his dynamic talk, “Your Book. Your Legacy.” Corey is a television actor, development producer, writer and inspirational speaker who woke up any would be sleepy attendee with his rousing energetic presentation.

Award winning author, Deborah LeBlanc shared her thoughts with a dramatic talk called, “When Everyone Else Says You Can’t.” Drawing from her sometimes tragic, personal life experiences and her troublesome publishing efforts, one left the room after hearing her knowing that “Yes, I can.”

Thirty professional writers, editors, agents, publishers’ reps, presented a variety of workshops on topics ranging from “Fixing Stories that Stink” to “Branding Yourself” plus everything in between. These experts were also available for fifteen minute one-on-one discussions.

Even food service showed up with its ‘A game.’ Once when the kitchen door swung open I swear I saw Wolfgang Puck high-five Rachael Ray. Cheers to the Holiday Inn - Palo Verde staff.

In summary, the 2008 SSA Conference was a big league experience for any serious writer.
Take a deep bow, Penny Porter and Barbara Stahura, conference committee co-directors.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lost Joey Today

We lost Joey Giardello today, but his life will live on in my words. Here's an Open Letter to his lovely, devoted wife who had more to do with Joey's success in life than all his boxing skills.


September 4, 2008
Dear Rosalie,
What can I say after I say that I’m so very sorry to hear of Joey’s passing?
Plenty for I know a great deal more about the man than most as I have spent the past year researching and “re-living” his entire life.
He was not only as reported by the boxing historian, Mike Casey and others, a great boxer, but what those historians didn’t know was that boxing was only a portion of his life. A smaller than would be expected part of his life. There was a lot more to Joey Giardello than boxing.
He was truly a great man.
I take pride in saying that I never met Joey Giardello. In 1982 I met Carmine Tilelli and was told that he was a famous boxer -- a world champion. And while he related some insider boxing stories he talked mostly about his family and the remarkable deeds of his number two son, Carman.
I learned that Carman, while born with Down syndrome had accomplished more in his life than most “normal” people. He met more celebrities; maintained a full time job; and imitated Elvis, Jimmy Durante and Ed Sullivan better than most impersonators. Carman won gold at the Special Olympic for a 300 yard race. He won a weight lifting contest. Carman as a Boy Scout went to Theodore Roosevelt Camp. He received a trophy for never missing a Little League Baseball game.
Now there was a proud papa.
Carman also met more celebrities than seen on a red carpet night in Hollywood. Famous folks: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sylvester Stallone, Jimmy Durante, and Frankie Avalon; in politics, Richard Nixon, Ted Kennedy, Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver; in sports, Tommy LaSorda, Mark Gastineau, plus too many Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles to name; boxers, Rocky Graziano, Willie Pep, Chico Vejar, Jake LaMota, Carmen Basilio, and too many more to list here.
Joey became involved and raised more money for charitable organizations that helped children with special needs than he probably earned for himself after leaving the ring. He held boxing exhibitions in 1969 and 1972 with many of the aforementioned boxers who squared off for charity. Many fans would attend these events just to see the referees, Jersey Joe Walcott, Jack Dempsey and James Braddock.
He met with Sargent and Eunice Shriver and volunteered his time to help launch the Special Olympics in 1968.
Joey was never more proud than when Carman retired from his job after 28 years at Cherry Hill Township, The Township named a building in his honor – The Carman Tilelli Community Center.
Joey was so much more than a boxer. He was a true humanitarian, a fund raiser for special needs children, a loving father and a husband,
And yes, middleweight champion 1963-1965.

With affection,
Charlie Redner

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

Took a few days away from the grind – went to Vegas for a show featuring house pets. Wife invested $1.00 in the slots, won $50.00. I lost a total of $6.00. Bet the casino brass are glad we left town. Back to the keyboard.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer time

Summer time and the living is …

Well, not exactly easy. Now settled into new office in Laguna Woods, almost. A last minute quick trip back and forth to Tucson after the cross country jaunt is now behind me. Gas prices are a lot cheaper in Arizona then here in California – taxes must make up the big difference. Research and writing going slow but onward we go.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Back home, back to writing

Safely back in Laguna. Now the task of reorganizing the new office and back to writing Down But Never Out.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Back to Laguna

I’m leaving Ocean City, New Jersey today and the cool waters of the Atlantic for the even colder waters of the Pacific. The drive will take five days if I hustle. Finished my interviews here and wrote important chapter for Down But Never Out titled: The Dreaded Diagnosis.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Off to Philly (New Jersey)

Leaving Tucson for Philly today via I-40 most of the way. Will watch for rough weather now along my path through Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Moved and moving

Moved my Laguna Woods office today. Huff, huff, and puff. Had professional movers and lots of help, but still required my lifting and reorganizing . Plan driving to Tucson and Philadelphia late next week. Finishing interviews with the Giardellos and Carman's former teachers and employers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Norfolk Island Pines

I marvel every day at the symmetrical Norfolk Island Pines that thrive on the many lawns here in Laguna Woods. I like order in the Universe -- don't you?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Drain the Swamp II"

Back in January I learned that Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball 'dissed' former middleweight champ, Joey Giardello. So I send him a positive point every day. Here's the first twelve. Not all related to boxing:
1. Joey Giardello won 101 bouts.
2. Joey Giardello won 101 bouts, 33 by KO
3. Joey Giardello won 101 bouts including wins over Dick Tiger (middleweight title), Rubin Hurricane Carter, and Sugar Ray Robinson.
4. Joey Giardello’s win over Henry Hanks 1/30/62 was Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year.
5. Joey Giardello beat Universal Studios in 2001.
6. Boxing historian Mike Casey states: “ …Joey Giardello was a genuinely great boxer fighter.”
7. Joey Giardello member International Boxing Hall of Fame
8. Joey Giardello member Pennsylvania and New Jersey Boxing Halls of Fame
9. Appointed to President’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports
10.In 1969 and 1972 gathered boxers Rocky Graziano, Jake LaMotta, Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler, Chico Vejar, Carmen Basillio and others to raise money for charity. Refs included (the ’72 bouts) Jersey Joe Walcott, Jack Dempsey and James Braddock.
11.Middleweight champ, Joey Giardello fought Gil Diaz, April 23, 1965 and gave all the proceeds to charity. He hurt his elbow in the fight causing him to cancel his next bout in Puerto Rico.
12. Joey Giardello volunteered as a working coach at the first ever Special Olympics held in Chicago, 1968.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ahaaaaaa - Life is Good

Seventy-five and sunny, birds chirping, life is good. Transcribing hours of Justice Burke's recordings using my Digital Wave Player and Dragon Naturally Speaking programs which cuts my time from voice to manuscript in half.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Brrrrrrrrrr II

Leaving Chicago this morning – 16 degrees and rising but still too cold for me. Meeting with Justice Burke provided desired background on the first ever Special Olympics of 1968. As the woman-in-charge she proposed, planned, and managed the entire event. And yes, she remembered “our beloved” Joey Giardello. More info than I need for Down But Never Out but her story probably deserves a book unto itself.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Conference B*L*A*S*T

I told you that the Southern California Writers’ Conference would be dynamite. Met a publisher who will be interested in Down But Never Out when finished and an author/screenwriter, Susan Arnout Smith who gave me so much help and inspiration that I ask all of you to seek out her website wwwsusanarnoutsmith.com Buy her book, The Timer Game -- it sounds terrific. Need more info – watch the back story webisodes on her site.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where's the next chapter?

Guess what? I've just been asked for the rest of my book, God And Country by a litpitch.com reader, where I had posted the first 22 chapters. About now thinking like Charles Dickens who would ask a nickel a chapter, but here in 2008 think I'll go for a quarter. Five chapters for a dollar. Hope I make my first sale!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Readers & Writers Alert

There's a new site on the web for rabid readers and new writers. I couldn't resist, sent the first 22 chapters of my novel God And Country. In just a few weeks my page has had 87 viewers and my novel downloaded by 33 readers. It also received two 5-star votes. To date though, no one has requested the balance of the book. Here's the address: www.litpitch.com

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Booked Chicago flight/hotel for February 21 interview with Illinois Supreme Court Justice, Anne Burke. Justice Burke was a young Chicago Park District representative who helped organize the first ever Special Olympics in 1968 -- topic for an important chapter in my current project: Down But Never Out.

SCWC Feb 15-18

The Southern California Writers' Conference begins on Friday, 2/15. In the San Diego area or not ... do things at the last minute? See www.writersconference.com This conference is a B*L*A*S*T.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Hardball Back at Chris Matthews

Last week I learned that Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball" apparently dissed former middleweight champ Joey Giardello with a comment about "draining the swamp" to find a worthy apponent for Dick Tiger in 1963, my response:

Dear Chris Matthews,
For your information, Joey Giardello was a great middleweight fighter according to this boxing historian:

“… play them the films of Joey’s best fights, there’s inevitably comes that moment when somebody in the room lets out a little gasp and says, ‘My goodness, I didn’t realize how good this guy was.’”

“… at his peak, which was some years before he finally got his shot at the world title, he was a genuinely great boxer fighter.”

---Mike Casey

When Giardello beat Dick Tiger (December 7, 1963) Tiger had in the previous 10 months defeated Gene Fullmer twice, in addition to fighting the former champion between wins to a 15 round draw.

In 1963 Ray Robinson wanted the shot at Dick Tiger who told Ray that he’d have to go through Giardello. Robinson couldn't. As Joey tells it about that fight, “Yeah, Robinson was old but I was old too.”

In his title defense before a rematch with Tiger, Joey beat tough guy, Rubin Hurricane Carter. Yeah, the 2000 movie, “The Hurricane” showed Carter being robbed but Carter publicly stated afterward that he didn’t win the fight. Giardello successfully challenged Universal Studios for a misrepresentation of the fight.

Even if you believe Joey wasn’t a great champion, you’d have to search hard and long for a more successful, good-hearted, and heroic former champion.

During and well after Joey’s days in the ring, he used his celebrity for the benefit of children with disabilities. Not only did he fight exhibitions but he staged two events that brought the best fighters of the 50’s and 60’s together for these children. Joey collected boxing greats: Carmen Basillio, Tippy Larkin, Chuck Davey, Willie Pep, Charlie Fusari, Billy Graham, Rocky Graziano, Chico Vejar, Jake LaMotta, Paul Pender, Ernie Durando, Sandy Saddler, Billy Conn and others. Many would attend the “Carnival of Champion” just to see the referees: Heavyweight champions, "The Manassa Mauler,” Jack Dempsey; Jersey Joe Walcott; and “Cinderella Man,” James Braddock. He gathered these fighters twice (1969 and 1972) and donated all the proceeds to charity.

In addition, Joey met with Sargent Shriver prior to the first ever Special Olympics in order to stress the importance of physical training for children with Down syndrome.

He raised money for Saint John of God School, the first school in New Jersey and perhaps the country dedicated to children with special needs.

He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Italian-American Halls; a former member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. He’s ranked 14th among the middleweight champions of all times.

Now, Chris, aren’t you just a little sorry that you used that “empty swamp” line in connection with Giardello?

Charlie Redner

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chuck E. Cheese’s again, soon, please.

January 12, 2008 -- Another Tucson DS Connection outing, another huge success for organizer, hard-working Kathy Getman. The lunchtime gathering packed the establishment with DS children along side the general population of Tucson. All had fun. For those, like me, unfamiliar with Chuck E. Cheese, it’s a cross between an old fashion penny-arcade and a PlayStation 3 – Skeetball to electronic “Deal or No Deal,” -- games served along with pizza and other food stuffs. Nary a child was seen without a mile-wide smile, as well as their parents, and of course, me.

Thanks, Kathy