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The Philadelphia Inquirer report on Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s shelving of a long and expensive investigation of alleged corruption by Democratic lawmakers in Philadelphia can be compared to a snake hiding in the grass waiting for just the right moment to pounce and cause toxic damage. The claim in the story is dramatic: that Pennsylvania’s number one law enforcer dropped the investigation, begun by one of the most respected corruption prosecutors in the state’s history, because she says it was aimed at African American lawmakers, a claim that may, according  to Inquirer reporters, be compromised by other points of view, of which there are many in this story.

Who is right in this story may not be the main point, politically. The story itself has motivated two possible scenarios: The embattled Governor, Tom Corbett, may now have a potent argument in his fall campaign, that a Democrat was protecting Democrats in the big city. The second scenario is more immediate. Will this force the Democratic Candidates for Governor to speak out about the report, and where will that go?

The newspaper piece is fascinating. Both sides have their arguments, but the reactions from the state lawmakers. who have not been charged with any crime, are tepid at best. The memories seem to be blurred in some of the reactions.

One thing is for sure. The Attorney General may think about a more detailed explanation before the banner headline and the story within, threatens to unravel her party in a year when her party seems to be riding high.



The  “Milkman” is an early chapter, with deep insight into the young life of John Lennon. Here is a section of that chapter. The following is part of an unedited author’s draft, before publication.

The milkman was a dreamer. Without his dreams, the band might have never been. The sun’s rays, on a lucky day, are making their way through the rooftops of Liverpool. The solitary figure moves quietly over the sidewalks, dropping off the fresh milk at his appointed rounds. He is hungry and, as always in the morning hours, filled with anxiety, a smidge of anger, and a touch of day- dreaming—the kind of fantastic dreams that fill us up with hope as teenagers. Chances are that he is thinking about music and creating a rea- sonable amount of mayhem during the day ahead. In young John Lennon’s mind, the milk delivery is a necessary means to an end, a few extra pounds, a purchase here or there of American records, a chance to chart his future, undaunted and barely affected by the doubts of the adults in his life. Above and beyond everything he was—friend, lover, son, nephew, brother, student, milkman—he was an incessant dreamer and devilish manipulator. His small, piercing eyes—whether as an infant in diapers, a late teen in a black leather jacket, a young star on tour from 1964 through 1966, or a worldwide icon—always told you the story. Even on the bandstands with his washboard and banjo friends—the Quarrymen—the eyeballs, and the muscles surrounding them, spoke volumes. When he giggled, which few witnessed, or when he was making a point with humor, he stared at you directly, his eyelids rarely blinking, and at times, not at all. During the moments when he was intense or quite serious, the eyes turned into a frightening stare. No wonder some of his teachers thought he was a menace. The eyes could look cold. As they say, “If looks could kill.”

During his shows, when he played to the crowd, his eyes stared straight out, as if he were rocking the joint for an audience of millions. One on one, in intimate moments of emotion and eloquent conversation, he would give a wistful look, as if to show sincerity. I was always stunned at his eye contact with the audiences. His flashes of humor, that ability to jump ahead of the thought, respond in a second or two to a statement or a question, were amaz- ing, if not superhuman. The boy, making his deliveries, and the man, later offering his words to the world, never stopped thinking his special thoughts, or about what he would say next. His personality and his imagination were something special, a package of excitement, sometimes so special and rudely honest that it became excess baggage on the travels of his life, but always, in the end of the remarks, refreshing the world with courage and conviction.

The milkman takes a deep drag on a cigarette as he circles back to the small home. As he comes through the door, the cigarette is gone. It wouldn’t be accepted in this house. He knows he has just a few minutes to gather up some tea, maybe toast with jam, a short conversation, if any at all, and it will be time to head off to school. It will be a long day, but music from the radio the night before is still filling his mind—Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, the Everly Brothers, good old Lonnie Donegan. Lately he has been obsessed with George Formby Jr., the man who grew up in Lancashire, the tart come- dian who also sang. The milkman has searched in great wonder for infor- mation on George, a banjo-ukulele man who eased out of Merseyside to reach the world of comedy and movies. After all, John thinks, how many infants could lose their sight and regain it after a violent sneeze? How many children at the age of seven could have a short career as a jockey? How could Formby, whose voice alone could make you laugh so hard, create separate stage and recording careers that brought so much joy to people during the Depression and war? And could John become, like Formby, a man who cre- ated comedy and song with rich double meanings, like Formby’s risqué tune “With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock”?


It was not lost on John that “My Little Stick,” a trademark song for Formby, king of comedy from 1934 to 1945, was banned by the BBC. John would take it as a badge of honor that years later, his relatively harmless song “Imagine” was banned on hundreds of American radio stations because it simply stated that there could be a better world without wars and the divisions of religion. John was amazed by Formby. Along with Donegan, Vincent, and the Yanks (an expression he learned from his mother, referring to American musicians), there was enough inspiration to incite the most curious of teenagers. Sadly, by the time he was seventeen, the mother was gone, and now he relied on his music boys, quiet Uncle George, an unsung hero in his life, and his formidable aunt, Mimi, who raced to the hospital during the bombing blitz to see lit- tle newborn John Winston, “the one” she had been waiting for.

He was at times both angry and hopeful, and always resented the estab- lishment around him—the teachers, the pompous, and anybody with a hint of bullshit. In his world, there was no room for that. He was also glowing or prickly, and there was very little in between. This mood swing, nonchalant to sensitive, would continue for all of his life.

Most of all, the milkman was an incessant dreamer. Dreaming was his first real profession. He did it all the time. During an argument we had on the 1966 North American tour, we debated the Vietnam War. He told me, “I dream of rescuing Americans before they go off and get killed.” Then, realizing that I was going into military service that summer, he offered me a job in the Beatles organization. “You could become an expatriate,” he said. I replied, “You’ve got to be kidding.” He said, “Not at all.”



It was an unforgettable moment. I was on duty, doing two newscasts an hour at WIL Radio in St. Louis, Missouri. The entire news and management staff was at a luncheon celebrating the station’s ratings. As the lowest in rank, and the evening news anchor, I was asked to fill in during the earlier hours.


The time was 12:30, Central. The date – November 22, 1963.

The Associated Press wire machine was in the corner, an old, pre-computer model, noisy with a purplish ribbon. The bells started ringing. This time, they didn’t stop. I ran over to the machine. It was a “bulletin” that I had never witnessed before.

 Flash! Flash!


Dallas – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy has been shot and perhaps fatally wounded in Dallas.


I didn’t believe it. Did the reporter see something that indicated the President was “perhaps fatally wounded?”


For a moment, I started shaking. It took me a few seconds to calm down. Through an intercom I advised the deejay to stop the music. I went on the air, trembling as I read the wire report. I reached up to a shelf where I grabbed an almanac. As I was talking, I turned to the page on President Kennedy, and glanced at the facts on file. I read his life story straight from the almanac. For those younger readers , an almanac was an annual booklet of major facts, listed in alphabetical order.

As I was reading, I positioned the microphone so I could tear off the reports that were coming over from our two wire services.

The motorcade is on its way to Parkland Hospital… the shots may have come from the Texas School Book Depository building… A Catholic priest has been called to the hospital… The Governor of Texas appears to have been wounded…


An intern rushed back from lunch and started gathering materials.

Within 20 minutes, the scope of the assassin’s work was becoming clear. I was advised by handwritten notes that most phone lines were not working. Fear was stalking the streets of America. None of us really knew what was coming next.

A little while later, I looked up at our newsroom’s black and white TV, and saw Walter Cronkite, the premiere anchorman of his time, shed a tear as he confirmed the death of the President.

I continued talking into the microphone, not aware that while I was speaking a station engineer was looking for funeral music, the sad beating of drums and dirges of melodic grief that was in the station’s vaults from the funeral of Franklin Roosevelt 18 years earlier. In the coming days, our non-stop news coverage was interrupted only by the sound of that unusual music, the sounds of grief.

The rest of the staff returned. I was sent to the Diocese of St. Louis where I interviewed Cardinal Ritter, who helped lead the nation’s spiritual response.

As I walked on the street outside the church, I could see so many people crying, so many with their heads down, and so many rushing for the shelter of home.

Like all broadcasters who do their job, the reality sets in long after the work is done. The reality of that day had several phases: shock, questions, fear of the unknown and finally, as darkness set in on that cold November Friday, the shared sense of grief.

Today, I can still hear the harsh sound of the bells from the wire machines, and the words quickly filling the paper, the purple ink staining my hands as I held the yellow paper in my hands, which were shaking as I talked in to the microphone.

It was the 22nd of November, 1963. I was 21 years old, but by the time I hit the pillow, fighting off sleep a little after midnight, I felt years older, with a sickening sense of terror, and the knowledge that things would never be the same.






Inside My Book, “WHEN THEY WERE BOYS”, An Author’s Surprise

The joys of putting a book together. Not so secret. Find your subject and allow them to trust you. Such is the case of June Furlong, the  life model who posed for John and Stuart at the Art Institute. Her stories about teaching the good friends were wonderful. But sometimes, during an interview, you never know what you’re going to get.

June was a mere 12 years old during the bombings of Liverpool. Her stories of terror during the bombing raids helped me paint a portrait of wartime Liverpool.

Here’s an excerpt.

June Furlong tried to live with the darkness of war. She would later make history posing for a young art student who would achieve undying fame long after his heart stopped beating. She was ten years old when the bombs start- ed dropping.

“We would sit around the table during the blackouts. The only illumina- tion [was from] the paint on the railings of the narrow staircase. I practiced piano in the dark, studied in the dark, sat in the dark, and heard the news that my cousin, a pilot, was shot down and killed. It was truly terrifying.”

Furlong still shudders to think what else could have happened. Recalling the fright, she talks of one fateful night. “An incendiary device came crash- ing through the roof,” she tells me.

She remembers the moment, her eyebrows arching, her face still showing the pain of the memory, sixty years later. “We sat under the table in the din- ing room. As the house shook, so did my body. It was so bloody frighten- ing.”

When the bombers stopped, even before the war ended, Furlong and her generation remembered the way it hardened the souls, and brought people together.

Furlong, who would play a role in the education of John Winston Lennon, is a woman of great enthusiasm, and has an undying love for her city. Her lips widen, her eyes glow, her voice becomes high-pitched and cheerful as she talks about the suddenly unchained people of her city and their ultimately positive reaction to the war.

“It [brought out] the best in people. People who didn’t talk for years start- ed talking. Friendship and dependency in war was second to none. We had street parties, jellies [candies], and parades. They were filled with music.”


What wonderful quotes from the mature June Furlong, who shared her story with me over tea in the lobby of a Liverpool cinema.

The research for this book lasted three years. The hardest interview to get was Julia Baird, John’s sister. She was reluctant. She wanted to make sure that their mother got the credit she deserved for helping John. She was disturbed that her Aunt Mimi was getting all the credit for John’s success. In her view, history has not served her mother well.

An excerpt:

Mimi had conjured up a story that my mother had moved into a house with my father [Dykins] and two children, my sister and I, alluding that he was our father and she was not our real mother.

John is John. John is a world icon. People will be wanting to know about John when we’re long dead. I don’t want my mother to have never been in the story.

The family story came apart when mother Julia, leaving Mimi’s house after tea, crossed Menlove Avenue and was struck and killed by a car driven by an area constable. It was July 15, 1958. John was seventeen years old, and his music was beginning to enter the magical phase. It was a loss that brought fits of rage, nightmares, and anger to John for the rest of his life.

Julia Baird, at the time shell-shocked, devastated by the loss of her moth- er, remembers how John tried to hide his tears.

“He was so ripped apart. He tried to hide his pain, but he had a lot of it, and it didn’t go away . . . not ever, especially when it came to her.”

Nigel Walley, an original member of the Quarrymen, and later manager of the group, had left Julia Lennon at a bus stop near her home. He was the last person to see her before the fatal accident.

“John could hardly face the funeral,” Walley recalled. “John didn’t want anyone to see him crying. For many months after her death he wore black in her memory.”

John, like Paul, who also lost his mother in his teenage years, may have never recovered. It was a big hole in his life, but he rarely talked about it.

On the Beatles’ chartered Electra airplane in August 1964, John Lennon had heard that my mother had just died. He found out from Paul McCartney, who was sharing thoughts with me on losing a parent.

“How are you, Lawrence [my birth name is Larry but he liked to call me that]? How are you doing?” John asked.

“Okay,” I said, the memories still lingering then after my mom’s death at the age of forty.

“Well, it’s hard. I know. My mum was killed in our neighborhood.” He explained the accident, the feeling of loss. It was comforting.


So, what did I find out in research for this book?

A lot. The Pete Best story had never been truly told, especially what happened at the Manchester Playhouse in 1962, when he was the victim of some fan violence, an episode that may have speeded-up his unceremonious firing from the group. The details of this episode, provided by eyewitnesses, were startling to me.

Also startling is the role played by the people I call the people who were “left behind.” These were folks like Sam Leach, Freda Kelly, the penetrating deejay of the Cavern, Bob Wooler, and most of all, Bill Harry, the young journalist whose newspaper, Mersey Beat, made all the difference in the world when it came to “getting the news out” about the boys.

The role of the families plays a major part in this story, especially the loving McCartney and Harrison families. It was also interesting how the deaths of the mothers of John and Paul in their teenage years impacted on their desire to succeed. The other family story is how John managed to survive the splintering of his family. There is no question that “The Milkman” (which is also the title of Chapter One) fought back anger and bitterness to rise to fame and fortune, but as you’ll find throughout the book, it almost didn’t happen for all of them.

An unusual character in this book is Tony Bramwell. He worked for the boys for 40 years. His quotes are filled with joy and laughter.

Here’s an excerpt from one of his great stories, about a small concert that saved their careers.

The show happened December 26, 1960, Boxing Day, a secular holiday that occurs the day after Christmas (or the first or second weekday after Christmas). It was, and remains, a bank holiday, another day of freedom for workers and students.

Tony Bramwell read an advertisement about the show and decided to go. Bramwell grew up near George Harrison and Paul McCartney. He boarded the number 81 bus, the bus that Harry Harrison drove on most days. Tony had not seen George in some time, and was always wondering what was happening in George’s life. And suddenly there was George, sitting on the num- ber 81 bus, guitar case in hand, looking directly at Tony. (For those who, like John, exalt the numerological power of the number 9, it should be noted that both the 8 and 1 from the number 81 bus, and the numbers of the date, 2 and 7, add up to 9. Numerology enthusiasts aside, the various coincidences of the number 9 in the boys’ lives are amazing.)

Wearing a black leather jacket and jeans, George explained to Bramwell that he was also headed to Litherland Town Hall. Tony, impressed by the shiny jacket, smiled. But he was a little nervous and his voice was a bit shaky.

“So you are headed to the dance?” Bramwell asked. “We’re playing there tonight,” George said. Bramwell was stunned. Shocked. He replied, “You’re the German group?” George nodded and said, “Yes, direct from Liverpool!” So George, Bramwell thought, was now part of the Beatles, who were in

fact advertised for the show as: “The Beatles—Direct from Hamburg.” And then Bramwell, who would eventually do business with the boys for five decades, made his very first deal. He arranged to carry George’s guitar into the Litherland Town Hall in return for free admission. It was, in the long run, a bargain. George also found his first “personal assistant.” Bramwell got a free backstage pass and the youngest Beatle would find a lifetime friend. “It was my first job, Larry,” Bramwell exclaimed to me with pride fifty-one years later.


  Next Page »


Back in the day:

Vintage interviews with Larry Kane. A witness to history.

Larry Kane interview with Paul McCartney on JFK Death

Larry Kane's interview with Paul McCartney

Larry Kane's interview with Colin Hall

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