My husband, Steve Orlandella, loved to write. By July, 2016, he was on a roll – brimming with ideas for his blog, Vic and the redhead, Facebook posts. Witty ideas and fun ways to express what he wanted to say. He had fun reading and re-reading what he wrote. I had fun reading them. Still do. He lives – and will always live – in his writing.
It all started on September 20, 2011. I, as an entertainment attorney, was invited to be on an e-publishing, self-help panel for members of the Writers Guild of America. The panel sought to empower writers to create new opportunities for work in film, television, new media and transmedia. Since WGA did not cover book publication regardless of format, it was thought that e-publishing could be a stepping stone towards potential work on Guild-covered adaptations. So, on September 20th, I joined members Lee Goldberg (The Glades), Derek Haas (Wanted), and Alexandra Sokoloff (author, Book of Shadows, and Mark Coker (Smashwords). Our task was to discuss the latest ebook/self and indie-publishing developments. It was a power-packed evening with information, questions, and answers. Thus, the next day I said to Steve, “You need to write a book”. To which he answered, “I have nothing to say.” I laughed. Steve ALWAYS had something to say.
The first book is delightful – STEVESPEAK – 3 YEARS ON FACEBOOK.
STEVESPEAK is one of my favorites for spending time with him and getting to know him better. Plus, it is dedicated: “To Janet, The wind beneath my wings, And the power behind my throne.”
In his Prologue, he writes: “I’m not sure how I got on Facebook. Most likely it was word of mouth. Like many of you I started small, but as my list of friends grew, so did my activity. A funny thing happened along the way, I found my voice. Along with connecting with friends, I had the chance to be critical, historical, passionate, and I hope, funny. This book traces almost 3 years on Facebook, and is designed to give my fellow “Facebookers,” An idea of what other people are saying. For what it’s worth, you will learn some things about me. My love for baseball, my interest in “The Titanic,” my passion for my hometown, Boston.
“Stevespeak” was coined by my wife, who insists I have my own language. Well that’s probably not true, but there are some words that are uniquely mine. For instance, only in my world is there a planet “Smecktar.” Those pimples on your shoulder blades are “bacne,” and “Xerocracy” is government by photocopy. If something is dead, it’s “kersfuncken.” “Inuendo” is Italian for colonoscopy.
That said, there are some things you need to know in order to navigate your way through this book. There are many references to something called “HRB.” “HRB” is “Her Royal Blondness.” That would be my wife. She is an attorney and is sometimes referred to as the “blonde barrister.” Her maiden name is Janet Jewell. Christine became Kris and is my sister. “Tori” and “Icto” are other names for our friend Victoria Lucas. Tori’s sister is Lil, and sometimes, Liz. The “Knife” is Joe Klinger. “Fabulous 52” was the old Saturday night movie series on CBS in Los Angeles. I stole it, (I mean, researched it) and it became the “Fabulous 42.” Most of the rest is self-explanatory.”
Next, his outstanding masterpiece – TITANIC.
TITANIC was his lifetime achievement, the one he held close to his heart. He dedicated it to his mother. He wrote, “To my Mother Therese, The Real Historian in The Family.”
He writes in his Foreword: “In the fall of 1960, I was a ten-year-old, growing up in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Even then I was sarcastic, opinionated, and well on my way to becoming obnoxious. The phrase most often used was, ‘A little too smart for his own good.’ Perhaps. Duplicit in all this were my parents who spoiled me rotten. One of my numerous privileges was permission to stay up late on Saturday night…very late.
Toward the end of the 1950s, television in Los Angeles was in a state of flux. The Country’s number three [now number two] market had seven stations, a wealth of airtime, and a dearth of programming. The three network affiliates and the four independents turned to motion pictures to fill the void so much so that one station, Channel 9, ran the same movie every night for a week. Hey, I love Jimmy Cagney, but how many times can you watch ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’? The stations also had the nasty habit of cutting the films to pieces, the classic case being Channel 7, the ABC affiliate who filled their 3:30-5pm slots by slicing and dicing 2-hour movies down to 67 minutes. They came close to cutting Ingrid Bergman out of ‘Casablanca.’ Channel 2, the CBS Affiliate, had no such problem. [They had ‘Lucy’; they had ‘Jackie Gleason’.] ‘The Fabulous 52’ was reserved for Saturday night at 11:30pm, and, since the only things that followed the movie were the National Anthem and a test pattern, they ran uncut. The station held the rights to a package of relatively recent films from 20th Century Fox.
One Saturday afternoon, my dad announced, ‘Titanic is on tonight.’ I had no idea who or what was ‘Titanic’, but we gathered in the family room at 11:30. For the next two hours, I sat transfixed, mesmerized by what we were seeing. If you are scoring at home, it was the 1953 version with Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb and a young Robert Wagner. They had me.
In 1964, I came across a copy of A Night to Remember, Walter Lord’s seminal work on the events of April 14-15, 1912, and the following year, I saw the movie made [in England, 1958] from Lord’s book. It was a film made by people who wanted to get it right. This film was the game changer.
The Fox movie opens with a page of text proclaiming that all the facts in the film were taken right from the United States Senate and British Board of Trade Inquiries. Really? Even then, Fox knew how to ‘play fast and loose with the truth.’ As good as their movie was – and it was good, it paled before the Brit’s film. Fifteen hundred people did not all stand together, sing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’, and meekly sink into the North Atlantic. They fought and struggled until their last breath, trying not to freeze or drown in the unforgiving sea. Madeleine Astor wasn’t an elegant matron. She was in fact a pregnant teenager. That was it. ‘Game On!’
I absorbed every book I could find, any TV program I could watch, and every newspaper on microfilm, along with help from the Titanic Historical Society. Add that to my natural affinity for ships, and an ‘obsession’ was born. For some, it’s The Civil War; for others, it’s the Kennedy Assassination; for me, it is The Royal Mail Steamship Titanic.
Part of the obsession stems from the fact that no event in history is so loaded with conjecture, myths, and downright lies, some of which are ‘beauties.’ One example: A young David Sarnoff [co-founder of RCA] became famous telling the world how he was the first to pick-up the Titanic’s distress call in the station on the roof of Wanamaker’s Department Store and how he remained at the key all Sunday night and well into the next day. Great story? Absolutely. Truthful story? Absolutely not. Wanamaker’s was closed on Sunday, and even when the store was open, Sarnoff was the office manager. Three other employees of The Marconi Company stood the watch.
Fox reloaded and fired again in 1997. This time, they tried it with a seemingly unlimited budget and an amateur historian calling the shots. Movie making? Unmatched. Story telling? Not so much. History? Nonexistent. There is a word for what you wind up with when you invent the leading characters. Fiction. Now, nobody loves Kate Winslet ‘in flagrante delicto’ more than I do, but the truth is better. Thus, ”Jack Dawson’ and ‘Rose DeWitt’ join ‘Julia Sturges’ and ‘Lady Marjory Bellamy’ as mythical creatures on a real ship.
And, since you’re making stuff up, how about a little character assassination? The 1997 film depicted First Officer William Murdoch taking but ultimately rejecting a bribe from make-believe villain ‘Caledon Hockley.’ Murdoch was also shown shooting two passengers dead after he presumed they intended to storm one of the remaining lifeboats. He then saluted Chief Officer Henry Wilde and committed suicide with a revolver. None of this ever happened. After the picture’s director [name withheld] refused to take out the bogus scenes, studio executives flew to Murdoch’s hometown to issue his relatives an apology. As for the movie, if you are looking for an accurate depiction of events – keep looking. Put another way, there was a ship called Titanic, and it sank. After that, you’re on your own.
The Civil War is far and away the all-time champion of most books. [One of Titanic’s passengers wrote ‘The Truth about Chickamauga.’] Second? The runner-up is World War II. Third? The correct guess is the Titanic. So, what is my mission statement? What else? Write yet another book. Tell her story, once again. This time, come armed with all I know and have learned in the wake of Doctor Robert Ballard’s stunning discovery of the wreck in 1985. I will attempt to detail what is correct and dispel, whenever possible, what is not.
I spent my career working in television, the first seven years producing TV News. What did I learn? I learned skepticism tinged with a bit of cynicism, and it has served me well. So, I will do your bidding. On your behalf, I will be skeptical, factual, analytical, and when required, cynical. There is one thing I cannot be, dispassionate. I will stipulate to a love of all ships – but Her most of all. By now, you may be asking yourself, ‘Why so many pictures?’ I confess that, too, is the TV producer in me. You always try to put a face with a story. Plus, there is always the possibility that you can’t recognize Turbinia.
If I am standing at all, it is on the shoulders of some truly great authors. I have read, re-read, and re-re-read their work over the years and have researched – borrowed – from them all. To the best of my ability, everything in this book is true. I believe in the concept that, if the Lord wanted us to remain silent, he wouldn’t have given us [brackets]. So, on occasion, you’ll see a comment from yours truly. [I’ll be that most irritating of shipmates – the loud, opinionated one.]
The longest section of the book concerns the area around the Boat Deck between midnight and 2:20am. If it seems long [it’s real time] and overly detailed, I apologize, but to me, this is the heart of the narrative. Hundreds of little dramas played out on a sloping deck in the middle of a freezing ocean. Loved ones were torn apart, and families were destroyed. And with it came the sub-plots. Some got in lifeboats, and some did not. Some were allowed in the boats, and some were not. All of this begs the question, why? Regardless, these are their stories, and on their behalf, I make no apologies. I have tried to keep the technological parts under control and not drown my readers in facts and figures. But the brains and skill that created the Olympic-class liners are very much a part of this story.
Allow me just a couple of more thoughts before we proceed. There is one sentence that is common to virtually every book written about the RMS Titanic. ‘It had been a mild winter in the Arctic.’ It had, indeed. Ice that had been forming since well before the dawn of man was now at last free. Unfettered, it could leave Greenland and move into the Labrador Current and begin its journey south toward the shipping lanes. The ice was no different than previous years, only this year, there would be more than usual, much more. There were small pieces of ice, what sailors called ‘growlers.’ There were large sections known as ‘sheet ice,’ and larger still, ‘pack ice.’ In between were hundreds of what every seaman feared most, what the Norsemen referred to as ‘mountains of ice.’ Icebergs.
If you’re familiar with the advertising business, you probably know about the concepts of ‘marketing research’ and ‘brand recognition.’ Countless studies have been commissioned to find out what people can identify and what they like. The results are often quite surprising. For example, inquiries have determined that far more people [around the world] can recognize the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ [in English, ‘The Prancing Horse’ aka the ‘Ferrari’ logo] than can recognize ‘Shell’ or ‘Coca-Cola.’ Then there is my favorite. For decades, focus groups, when asked to identify the most famous ship in the world, gave the traditional answer, ‘Noah’s Ark’. No more. The runaway number one is now ‘Titanic’. That’s ‘brand recognition.’
There is no way to tell the whole story in this little book, yet I will do my best. Call me crazy [you wouldn’t be the first] and maybe a little arrogant [see previous], but I feel it’s my duty to help set the record straight for fifteen hundred souls who went to a cold, watery grave that night. Time to depart. ‘All ashore that’s goin’ ashore!'”
Next, THE GAME.
THE GAME is dedicated, “To My Father, For that rainy day at Fenway and A thousand games of ‘catch’”. Steve was passionate about baseball. He knew baseball in-and-out. He was the expert’s expert. He would say, “I know what I like.” Well, I’m here to tell you that he “liked”, [see also, “was passionate about”] the Red Sox, Boston, the Patriots, the Celtics, Lotus cars, Ferraris, meatballs, pasta of any kind, pundits, condiments, the Titanic, HRB, his family, and Vin Scully – not necessarily in that order.
He writes in THE GAME Foreword: “The History books tell us that the first professional baseball game was held on May 4, 1869, as the Cincinnati Red Stockings ‘eked’ out a 45-9 win. No doubt, the first baseball story was told on May 5, 1969. No sport – not basketball, not football, not hockey – has the oral tradition of the national pastime. And, like any good oral tradition, it has been passed from generation to generation. Baseball stories in one form or another are as much a part of our game as the infield fly and the rosin bag. In this book, they come in all sizes and shapes – short stories, essays, expressions, rules, jokes, and slang, to name just a few.
The first ‘Baseball Balladeer’ in my life was one Vincent Edward Scully, known to three generations of fans as ‘Vin.’ For baseball-ignorant Southern Californians, he was a Godsend. Far more than their voice, he was their teacher. At that point, the game that had been thousands of miles away was as close as your transistor radio or the ‘am’ in your car. He gave Los Angeles the who, what, when, where, and most importantly, the why. He studied at the foot of the master Red Barber and is acknowledged as the best in the business. I know this how? He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame 43 years ago! For nine years, I was lucky enough to be his producer. I called him ‘The Doctor’ for his PhD in baseball. Try explaining the balk rule to the man who taught you half of what you know about the game.
When I began covering the Angels, I got to know Emil Joseph ‘Buzzie’ Bavasi. If you looked up ‘character’ in the dictionary, it would say, ‘see Buzzie.’ In the ‘40s, he was Branch Rickey’s top lieutenant and had a hand in breaking Baseball’s color line as well as dealing with Vero Beach in the acquisition of Dodgertown. He became General Manager and earned a reputation as a shrewd and tough negotiator. Buzzie loved to tell the story about contract haggling with a certain player [still alive, so no names]. He had a fake contract with a very low salary created for the team’s best player. He left it on his desk and excused himself for a moment, convinced that the player would take a peak. Needless to say that when he returned, the negotiations ended quickly and in Buzzie’s favor. He had been schooled in [and ultimately taught] the Branch Rickey way of playing the game [stressing fundamentals, nurturing talent, and the importance of a strong farm system]. In the years we worked together, I never once overheard a conversation when he wasn’t at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a story or anecdote. He lived for baseball and lived to talk about it.
In 1985, I began working with Bob Starr. Bob, or as we called him, ‘Bobo’, was the broadcaster’s broadcaster. He could do play-by-play for anything – baseball, football, your kid’s hopscotch game, anything. Bobo was a graduate of the KMOX School of Broadcasting. The famed St. Louis radio station produced Harry Caray, Jack and Joe Buck, Buddy Blattner, Joe Garagiola, and Bob Costas, among others. He had that smooth, Midwestern style, and on the air, you’d swear he was talking just to you. I once shared a golf cart with him for a round – four hours well-spent looking for my ball [as usual] and listening. He loved to tell stories, some on himself. While playing 18 holes on an off day, Bob had a heart attack. Upon arrival at the hospital, the doctors asked if he were in pain. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘in my backside.’ Mystified, the doctors went over the test results. A physical examination revealed that the patient still had his pants on. The source of the pain was two Titleists in his back pocket. How we miss Bobo.
The average baseball fan may not recognize the name Jack Lang, but every player knew him and loved it when he called. Jack was for twenty years the executive secretary of The Baseball Writers of America, and if he telephoned you, it meant that you just won the Cy Young Award, the Most Valuable Player Award, the Rookie-of-the-Year, or had hit the ‘Baseball Lottery,’ induction into the Hall of Fame. His vocation was sportswriter [a New York beat writer], and for forty years, he was one of the best. I met Jack in 1987. We had been hired by Victor Temkin to do sports licensing for MCA/Universal. It was there I discovered his sense of humor, his humanity, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the game. We would speak on the phone almost every day for an hour. Five minutes would be devoted to business, the remaining fifty-five given over to ‘talkin’ baseball.’ I firmly believe that I could have put the phone on speaker, turned on a tape recorder, left the room, and returned thirty minutes later to find another chapter for this book. In 1997, we took a production crew to his home for an interview. It was the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s entry into the major leagues, and who better to discuss it than the man who covered it. Jack lived in the little village of Ft. Salonga on the North Coast of Long Island, [Vin used to refer to him as ‘the Squire of Ft. Salonga’] in a modest house with an office on the side. The office contained a desk, two chairs, and enough baseball memorabilia to open a museum. [The whole place could have been shipped, as is, to Cooperstown.]
Buzzie, Bobo, and the Squire are gone, and, believe me, this book would have been easier to write if they were still here. We still have Vinnie [long may he reign]. If there is such a thing as a sub-dedication, this is for them. They and countless others had a hand in writing this book. I have tried to fashion a work with something for everyone, from the hard-core fan to the young people just learning about the game. In so doing, I’ve run the gamut all the way from baseball history to baseball jokes. I hope you enjoy it and hope it adds to your love for ‘the game’.”
At this point, Steve decided to try his hand at writing novels – mysteries with a lead detective and his girlfriend. With that, Vic Landell and the Redhead appeared on the scene. He spent hours with them in locales he loved – Sarasota, Florida, Washington, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, New York. The first Vic Landell mystery is BURDEN OF PROOF.
BURDEN OF PROOF is set in and around Sarasota Florida. It is dedicated my sister, Patricia Jewell Prince, “My Sister-in-Law Patricia, Lover of Mysteries.”
Steve begins each mystery: What’s in a Name? “My father was born Vito Anthony Orlandella, and he didn’t much care for his name. “Vito” was all right, and in fact, he named his principal business The Vito Fruit Company – although throughout Boston he was often referred to as “Vic.” No real problem with the benign Anthony, it was the last name he saw as problematic. His one foray into show business as a record producer was done under the name “Tony Vito.” I’m not certain, but I believe he thought that Orlandella was too long and clumsy for a billboard. He had another name ready but never got the chance to use it. A clever anagram made by dropping the first two and the last letters of his name. Add to that, the remnants of his first name. Thus was born “Vic Landell.” When it came time to name my pitcher-turned-detective, the choice was an easy one. Call it homage to my father.”
Next, CAPITOL MURDER.
CAPITOL MURDER is dedicated to “Her Royal Blondness [HRB], Long may she Reign”. It is set in and around Washington, D.C.
“What’s in a Name? The heroine of this series is Marcia Glenn. The name is borrowed from my first childhood crush – a sixth-grade, blonde goddess. For two years I pined for her from, to paraphrase Hammerstein, ‘across a crowded schoolroom.’ My passion held in check only by the fact that she didn’t know I was alive. Her sights were set on another classmate, a surfer boy wannabe with flaxen air. Sure, just plunge a knife in my heart. The irony of all this is rooted in the fact that he seemed to have absolutely no interest in her. Funny the things you remember. How this preteen vixen has now morphed into a six-foot, Titian-tressed femme fatale is a story for another time.”
MARATHON MURDERS is dedicated to “Dash, Winner & Still Champion”, and located in Boston.
“What’s in a Name? He was born on a farm in Maryland. He served his country in the First World War, and became ill with the Spanish flu and later contracted Tuberculosis – spending most of his time in the Army as a patient in a Washington Hospital. As a result of his illness he could not live full-time with his wife and two daughters and the marriage fell apart. He was a firm believer in the notion that you write about what you know. And since he was an alcoholic, his two most famous characters were as well. He devoted much of the rest of his life to unpopular causes. He wore his country’s uniform again in the Second World War. His reward? After the war he was investigated by Congress and testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his own life, but refused to cooperate with the committee. As a result – he was blacklisted. He was sixty-six when lung cancer took his life. In his obituary, The New York Times said of him, ‘the dean of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction.’ For any fan of mysteries his name is said with a smile. For someone like me, who would love to be just a poor copy of the original, it is said with reverence.”
And then, Steve wrote his favorite, DANCE WITH DEATH.
DANCE WITH DEATH is dedicated “To my Second Parents Rose & Gerry”. It is set in Los Angeles, California.
“What’s in a Name? She was born Marcia Colleen Glenn – her first name from the Latin, meaning ‘dedicated to Mars.’ Mars is the red planet – there is your first clue. It also means proud or warlike – that’s your second clue. Her middle name was chosen by her father to emphasize the family’s Gaelic heritage. By the age of five, her sister Katelyn was calling her ‘The Marce.’ To this day, if she likes you, call her Marce. If she doesn’t much care for you, it’s Marcia. If she flat hates your guts – it’s Ms. Glenn. Fair warning, if you call her Marsha, brother, you are just asking for trouble. When she was seventeen and turned from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, the boys in her high school started referring to her as ‘the looker.’ The lawyers at the firm where she did her internship called her ‘the stunner.’ That’s also what the crew at WWSB calls her – along with ‘the goddess.’ To the boys in Idaho Falls, she was ‘the long drink of water.’ When she knocked out a would-be assailant with one right hand, the name ‘slugger’ entered the lexicon. There are others, like ‘supermodel’ and ‘deadeye.’ But if you’ve killed someone, she’s the ‘red menace.’ And finally, to her smitten boyfriend, she is occasionally ‘Titian’ -the shade of her glorious red hair. She will also answer to ‘Irish,’ and for him only, ‘Honey,’ along with his favorite, ‘Baby.’ But, first and foremost she is always and forever – ‘the redhead.'”
His finale, MIDTOWN MAYHEM, dedicated “For the amazing Kris Jones”, and set in NYC. He did not know this would be his last one.
“What’s in a Name? It was my high-school baseball coach who first hung the nickname on me. Of the nine pitchers on his staff, eight were right-handed. When asked who would be the starting pitcher against Syracuse, he replied, “Let’s send out the lefty.” The name stuck throughout college, the minors, and my first six years in the majors. It became problematic for me when I was traded to Philadelphia – for you see, they already had a “Lefty.” He was born Steven Norman Carlton. He made his debut with the Cardinals in 1965. A tall, imposing man, blessed with a hard fastball and nasty slider. He was soon known as an intimidating and dominating pitcher. Following a protracted salary dispute, St. Louis Cardinals owner Gussie Busch ordered Carlton traded. Eventually, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies before the ‘72 season for a pitcher named Rick Wise. In time, it would be recognized as one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history. Carlton hit his stride with the Phillies. How good was he? In 1972, the down-trodden Phils won a total of 59 games – 27 of them by Carlton. That won him his first of four Cy Young Awards. He finished with 322 wins and was a consensus first ballot Hall of Famer. The day before a start, the scoreboard in Veterans Stadium would list tomorrow’s starting pitcher – Lefty. Need more? There’s a statue of him in front of Citizens Bank Park. How was I supposed to compete with all that? I could not. Since Carlton is six-foot four and your humble servant is a paltry six-foot one the players started to refer to me as Little Lefty. The day my career ended, I went back to being plain old Lefty.”
Steve was writing CASINO KILLER when he died. Forty-six pages are in the can. It was to be dedicated to “John & Gloria Cataldo, Once and Forever”. It was to be set in and around Nice, France.
“What’s in a Name? It is the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea in the southeast corner of France, beneath of the base of the French Alps. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from the Italian border in the east to Saint-Tropez, Hyères, Toulon, or Cassis in the west. The area is a Department of the French Government – Alpes-Maritimes. There is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. As the French might refer to it – beau ravage – beautiful shoreline. It began as a winter health resort for the British upper class at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it became the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, including Queen Victoria. It was the English who coined the phrase, the French Riviera. After World War II, the south of France became a popular tourist destination and convention site. The area went off the charts in the 1950s when a beautiful girl from Philadelphia moved into the Royal palace of the one and only principality. Millionaires and celebrities built homes there and routinely spent their summers. The region has one more name. In 1887, a French author named Stéphen Liégeard published a book about the coastline. So taken was he by the color of the Mediterranean, he used the words Azure Coast in the title – in French that translates as Côte d’Azur.”
All books are for sale on smashwords.com and amazon.com under the name “Steve Orlandella”.