The Corner

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True Tales

The Big O, Oscar Robertson, in 2018 (Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports)

My Impromptus yesterday, I began with some remarks about James Harden, the basketball star, going on to discuss ballet. A reader writes that he was never much for basketball or ballet. But:

Back in the late 1950s, my father took me to the Boston Garden to see the Celtics play. I must have been seven, eight years old. My first impression was striking. The Celtics were playing the Cincinnati Royals (Oscar Robertson, Wayne Embry). When the Celtics brought the ball up the court, it all flowed so smoothly. It was flawlessly choreographed. Maybe this could qualify as a workingman’s ballet?

In a post on André Previn, I detailed the man’s sheer versatility. A reader writes, “You unaccountably omitted his comedic skills.” Quite right. Here is Previn, in 1971, with the legendary team of Morecambe & Wise.

Previn wrote an opera on A Streetcar Named Desire, the Tennessee Williams play. I mentioned this, and a reader wanted to be sure I had seen what The Simpsons did with Streetcar. I had not: here.

What about the mystery of race? The screwiness of race? The madness of race? I touched on this in my column yesterday. I got a note from my friend Mike Brown, the editor of the Rockdale Reporter, in Texas. He cited a piece by Tony Hillerman, collected in The Great Taos Bank Robbery (1973).

Anglo, as used in northern New Mexico, doesn’t exactly mean Anglo-Saxon. It is best explained by repeating an old story which has delighted several generations of Santa Feans. It seems a Negro citizen was accosted at the Precinct Seventeen polls by a Spanish American and asked how much was being paid for votes. “I don’t know,” said the Negro, “they haven’t got around to us Anglos yet.” In other words, Anglo is a negative term meaning the person so designated is of neither Spanish nor Indian descent.

Marvelous. I’m reminded of my old friend, and NR’s old friend, Pat Gigliotti, who grew up in Kansas City. Some mothers did not want him to date their daughters because he wasn’t “white.” (He was Italian American.) Now he lives in L.A. and is considered an “Anglo.”

Says Pat, “I can’t figure out whether that’s a promotion or a demotion.”

He also gets a kick out of “Latino.” Because Rudolph Valentino, you see — the Italian matinée idol — was the original “Latin lover.” Race’ll drive you nuts. (Don’t let it.)

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