Charlotte and Godfrey Rampling
Charlotte Rampling with father Godfrey Rampling at his 100th birthday celebration
On Sunday, February 28 in the United States, The Academy Awards showcased five women for Best Actress: Cate Blanchett in Carol, Brie Larson, in Room, Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.

And the winner is…..Brie Larson!

Rampling was definitely in the running – although nominated for the first time in her career, she has had a long and successful run as a model and actress.

Unfortunately, right after the Oscar nominations were announced, Rampling dropped the baton. In 2016, for the second year in a row, there were no nominees of color in the major acting categories. This prompted calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards. That in turn prompted Rampling to speak out on her own in a French talk show, saying that talk of boycotting the Academy Awards because no Blacks were nominated is “racist to whites.” She continued by saying, “One can never really know, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to make the final list.”

Coincidentally (or perhaps ironically), Rampling’s father, Godfrey Rampling, competed in the Berlin Olympics in 1936 as a 400-meter sprinter. While finishing fourth in the individual men’s 400-meter competition, he and his team from Great Britain won the 4X400 relay finals, in good part due to Godfrey Rampling’s stunning burst to take the lead from Canada in the second leg, enabling Team GB to win gold.

OLYMPICS Rampling 19
Olympics – Britain’s Oldest Olympian Godfrey Rampling celebrates his 100th Birthday – Bushey House…A collect picture showing Godfrey Rampling (second left) competing in the 1936 Berlin Games. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 15, 2009. Britain’s Oldest Olympian Godfrey Rampling celebrates his 100th birthday today with a party at Bushey House, Bushey. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.
These were of course the Olympics that pitted the position of Arayan superiority against all who were not of Arayan stock, a backdrop that reflected the spotlight on black American sprinter, Jesse Owens. And while I have no idea what thoughts Godfrey Rampling had on race, the thoughts of his daughter, Charlotte, dully echo those from Berlin…in my opinion.

Fortunately, (black) comedian Chris Rock was the host of the 2016 Academy Awards, and if anyone could respond to the Charlotte Ramplings of the world, it was Chris Rock. Here is a transcript of his opening monologue at the Oscars, which walks a fine line, attacks the extremes of the argument, and makes us laugh and think.

People living in Japan are used to Hollywood films coming out months after their US release date. But it’s unusual for a movie to come out a year after its release.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, I got to watch the film Unbroken.

Zamperini in front of photo of Berlin GamesDirected by the actress, Angelina Jolie, Unbroken is the incredible story about Louis Zamperini, whose life defies belief. He was an Olympian in the 1936 Olympics, who finished eighth in the 5,000 meters final, but did so in such dramatic fashion that Adolph Hitler sought him out to shake his hand.

He was a bombardier on a B-24 fighting in the Pacific War, was a survivor not only of a crash on a rescue mission in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but also 47 days on a life raft without food or water.

His life up to that point is a miracle, but when he was finally found and captured by Japanese troops on the Marshall Islands, he embarked on a more brutal path as a prisoner of war in various camps in Japan. The brutality he and other POWs endured is portrayed in the movie fairly graphically.

Japan Film Unbroken
Moviegoers wait before Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” opens in front of a movie theater in Tokyo, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. “Unbroken” has opened more than a year after the rest of the world in Japan, the country where the main character endures as a prisoner of war and where some have called for a boycott of the movie. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

It was this depiction of the Japanese overlords, among other things, that was feared to provoke right-wing groups if the film were to be shown in Japan. But one year later, after countless appeals by Jolie to bring the film to Japan, Toho-Towa finally decided to distribute the film after a delay, and a small art-house theater in Shibuya called Theater Image Forum which seats only 64 people, decided to show the film.

According to the AP report, the “distributor said in a statement that it decided to go ahead with the showing because various views on war should be expressed, and because it was unnatural for a movie about Japan not to be shown in the country.”

Bravo.

Too bad that only 2 theaters in all of Tokyo are showing the film.

The film itself is a Hollywood biopic – in other words, a traditional telling of a great person’s life – a chronologically told tale of the person’s significant moments, with flash backs here and there. But because Zamperini’s life story is epic, it’s impossible not to be impressed.

Perhaps the most striking was not the performance of Jack O’Connell, who portrayed Zamperini in the film. It was of the Japanese singer turned actor, Miyavi, who was at times electrifying as a POW camp authority whose sadistic nature made life, as it were, intolerable for the prisoners.

miyavi as watanabe in unbroken
Miyavi in Unbroken

Zamperini’s life after the war was a personal challenge – how does one digest the horrors he faced and emerge a fully functioning member of a peace-time society? And yet, he did, and came to realize that forgiveness was the only way out of his personal pit of lifelong trauma. As the movie, as well as this documentary by CBS on Zamperini depict, the man, unbroken, did return to Japan in 1998. He carried the Olympic torch for a kilometer at a ceremony leading up to the Nagano Winter Games. And the Torrance Torch, as he was once called as a high school track phenom, shone bright once again.

(Go to the 33 minute mark for that wonderful moment.)

 

Men's Club Cover_July 1964
The cover of Men’s Club (July 1964), the men’s fashion magazine of choice in the 1960s in Japan

They dressed like the nonchalant well-groomed elite of Ivy League students. But they were seen as delinquents.

Such was the state of men’s fashion in 1964, when the international community descended on Tokyo for the Olympic Games.

The photos in this post of men in the fashion of the times is from a magazine called Men’s Club, published in July, 1964. They were members of the Miyuki-zoku, a group of fashion-conscience young men who would see and sometimes buy the latest jackets and slacks at relevant stores on the Ginza, particularly on Miyuki Street.

Men's Club July 1964_color
The Ivy Look, Men’s Club_July 1964

Tokyo in the mid-1960s was undergoing rapid change, and magazines like Men’s Club were filling a void in the life of young men. Men in their 40s and older, in other words, the parents of the Miyuki-zoku, came of age in the war years, and lived through post-war poverty and significant socio-political change. Their tastes in fashion were uniform and conservative. They looked down on women who wore colorful and stylish dresses and accessories, as the early adopters in Japan were the pan pan girls who tended to seek out American military companionship. And they looked down on men who took on American airs, wore their hair slicked back and listened to rock and roll.

Men's Club July 1964_bermuda shorts
Bermuda shorts were all the rage in 1964_Men’s Club_July 1964

As described in this fantastic article by W. David Marx called The Climb of Ivy: The styles of the American Ivy League transform the fashions of 1960s Japan, “The basic male wardrobe went to extremes of conformity: a single charcoal-gray or navy-blue suit, dark tie, white shirt, and dark shoes. White shirts outsold colored ones more than twenty to one. A striped shirt was enough to get a worker in trouble. And ready-to-wear clothing was not an option. Men dismissed non-tailored garments as tsurushi or tsurushinbo, meaning ‘something hung up,’ with the sting of a racial slur.”

Into the void stepped Kensuke Ishizu, who was the leading voice on Japan’s first men’s fashion magazine, “Otoko no Fukushoku”, and creator of the fashion brand, Van. He took a trip to the United States to see American fashion firsthand, and more specifically, how the these people called “Ivy Leaguers” dressed. He visited Princeton University and took loads of pictures of men around campus. Wrote Marx,

Kensuke Ishizu
Kensuke Ishizu

 

These elite, athletic students demonstrated how dapper a young man could look in ready-to-wear clothing. The clothes looked neat and fit closely to the body. Ishizu especially liked that the style relied on natural materials such as cotton and wool, which could be worn for a long time and easily cleaned. Japanese students in the late 1950s had little pocket money, but Ivy clothing would be a good investment—durable, functional, and based on static, traditional styles.

As explained in Marx’s article, Ishizu was inspired by a whole line of Ivy fashion that young men could buy off the rack. He started by copying the design of a Brooks Brothers suit as the first in a long line of fashion statements in his Van line of clothes. Eventually, groups of young men would gather and discuss the proper or authentic way to dress Ivy style. One particular group called themselves the Traditional Ivy Leaguers Club, who read Otoko no Fukushoku religiously, and obsessed over the rules of proper dress as well as minute details of stitching or material that set the Ivy look apart from all others. They were so influential, Ishizu featured this club in a story in his magazine, newly rebranded as “Men’s Club”.

Men's Club_Ivy Cool
From Men’s Club_July 1964

The key to the magazine and the industry’s success was the articulation of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of Ivy fashion. Young men wanted to be different, but in order to be cool, they felt they needed to do it exactly right. Ishizu and members of the Traditional Ivy Leaguers Club, particularly co-founder Toshiyuki Kurosu, became the arbiters of Ivy fashion. Again, Marx explains:

In the pages of Men’s Club, Kurosu became the unofficial headmaster of the Ivy school. He ran an Ivy Q&A column in the back of the magazine. He told readers, for example, not to wear ties with their sports shirts and to avoid tie tacks and cufflinks with blazers, while also advocating for the mentality of Ivy: an easy East Coast nonchalance. Kurosu warned a reader threatening to wear a button-down collar with the buttons undone, “It has to feel natural. It’s the absolute worst if other people think you’ve left them intentionally unbuttoned.” Kurosu, a twenty-something who had never lived in the United States, was playing referee with confidence that came from years of research—but also a good measure of bluffing.

Perhaps one of the most influential books in the history of men’s fashion in Japan is called

1956 Dutch Olympic Team Rehabilitation lunch at Kurhaus Hotel in Scheveningen
The Rehabilitation Lunch for the 1956 Dutch Olympic Team, organized by the Dutch Olympic Committee at the Kurhaus Hotel in Scheveningen, Holland.

“Melbourne is THE black page in the Olympic History of the Netherlands,” wrote Ada Kok in an email to me. Kok was not only a two-time Olympian in 1964 and 1968, she was the President of the Dutch Olympians Association for 11 years.

And when she was president, you could join the association only if you were an Olympian. Thus, the unfortunate members of the 1956 Dutch National Team were forbidden from competing once the Dutch government decided to boycott the Melbourne Games. As related in a previous post, some of the Dutch national team, including world-record swimmer, Cocky Gastelaars, were already in Melbourne preparing when the decision was made.

Ada and Cocky
Ada Kok and Cocky Gastelaars

“Some athletes were already present in Melbourne to train and they were whistled back home by the Dutch Olympic Committee and the Dutch Government,” wrote Kok. “For Cocky this was a traumatic decision as this was her chance to win a gold medal being a world-record holder. But not only was Cocky disappointed. Then, we had a lot of potential gold medal winners who were part of this Dutch Olympic Melbourne Team in 1956. The sad thing was they all just received a telegram to announce the Olympic Team was not travelling to Melbourne, and for those who were already in Melbourne, they were ordered to leave the Olympic Village, not to wear their Olympic outfits anymore and travel home immediately.”

Kok provided me with a copy of that telegram dated November 7, 1956, seen below.

telegram Dutch boycott

DUTCH OLYMPIC TEAM                                                                                                              HEIDELBERG-VICTORIA-ASUSTRLIA

AT EXTRAORDINARY MEETING THE DUTCH OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION TO WITHDRAW DUE TO HUNGARY STOP LEAVE OLYMPIC VILLAGE – FIND OTHER PLACE TO STAY STOP WEAR CIVILIAN CLOTHES – IF IMPOSSIBLE REMOVE BADGE STOP WAIT FOR PAULEN LEAVING 11 NOVEMBER FLIGHT 845 FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS STOP CANCEL ALL HOTEL RESERVATIONS BUT RESERVE HOTEL WINDSOR PAULEN AND CHARLES LEAVING 15 NOVEMBER SORRY ALL THE BEST

NOC  (National Olympic Committee )

To a world-class athlete preparing years for this moment, the telegram above must have been a dagger in their backs. “No further explanation,” wrote Kok. “This was so sad! And this caused over the years a lot of bad feelings among the Dutch Olympians from 1956.”

It took a while, but in 2014, a step was taken to recognize these athletes whose lives were so abruptly and rudely changed that day in November 1956. Erica Terpstra, who was the President of the Dutch Olympic Committee, worked with Ada Kok to arrange a day of

gastelaars and fraser
Cocky Gastelaars and Dawn Fraser

You are one of the fastest swimmers in the world, having broken the world record twice prior to the Olympic Games. You’re going to be confident and excited for the fight.

So much can happen to an athlete before the competition begins: bad news from home, illness, an injury. But rarely do you arrive at the venue of the Olympic Games, prep for the competitions, only to be told to go home. It happened to the Indonesians and North Koreans at the 1964 Tokyo Games, and surprisingly to me, the Dutch in the 1956 Melbourne Games.

When the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in late October, 1956, in order to help suppress an anti-government uprising, there was an international outcry. As a result, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland decided to boycott the Summer Games in Melbourne held only a few weeks later. This came as a shock. In one case, a world-record holder and nearly sure-medalist swimmer from Rotterdam, Cornelia Maria (Cocky) Gastelaars, was asked to retreat at a time of possible victory.

Dawn Fraser, legendary Olympic champion swimmer from Australia , told this story in her autobiography, Below the Surface – The Confessions of an Olympic Champion.below the surface cover

My first disappointment after moving into the Olympic Village came when the Dutch government ordered the Netherlands team to withdraw from competition. The international situation was tense then, first with Suez and then with the Hungarian revolution, and the Dutch felt that it was no time for running, jumping, swimming and other frivolous pastimes. This meant that Lorraine and I would be deprived of our main opposition from overseas – Cockie Gasterlaars. You may think that we should have welcomed the news that a big danger was out of the reckoning: all I know is that we were bitterly disappointed, the more so because Cockie was actually in Melbourne and living at the Village when the news of Holland’s withdrawal arrived.

Cockie spoke excellent English, and we talked often during the first weeks in the Village. She had held the world 100-meter record twice during the year, and she wept once when she told me how much she wanted to compete. Another time she checked through the list of entries with me and told me that an American girl, Shelley Mann, and a Canadian girl called Grant had been swimming good times; but I think we both knew that the real struggle would have been between Cockie, Lorraine and me.

Fraser went on to win the 100-meter freestyle championship in Melbourne in world record time. But she is not sure that would have been the result had the Dutch team not boycotted the Games.

The day the Dutch team moved out, I saw Cockie Gastelaars. “You were wonderful,” she said. And I told her it might have been a different result if she’d been swimming. She was a sweet, shy girl and very brave; it must have been awful to have been deprived of the chance to compete just when she was at the peak of her career. We swapped badges, pins and finally addresses. We said we’d write, and we told each other that we’d be bound to meet in the water sometime, somewhere.

POSTSCRIPT: October 29, 2016. I had the honor of interviewing Cocky Gastelaars on October 10. I learned that, in fact, she never was in Australia when the Dutch government announced the boycott. She was still at home. And of course, she was very disappointed. But she did not meet Dawn Fraser  until a year after the Melbourne Olympics when she took a trip to Australia.

 

For Part 2, go to this link:

The Dutch Boycott of the 1956 Olympic Games Part 2: Rehabilitation

barkley and johnson draped in american flag
Picture of Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson with the American flag draped over their shoulders to cover the Reebok logos on their jacket. Barkley and Johnson had agreements with other footwear brands. John Stockton and Chris Mullin, 1992 Dream Team teammates, look on.

Here’s a fascinating article from Yahoo Sports about the sports footwear industry and the NBA, and a few facts:

Fact #1: Only 10 NBA players currently have their own “signature shoe” with a US-based brand. In case you’re interested, they are: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at Nike; Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony at Jordan Brand; Derrick Rose and Damian Lillard at adidas (James Harden’s shoe will launch in 2017); and Stephen Curry at Under Armour.

Fact #2: A shoe deal for an NBA lottery pick (a person who is in the top 5 or 10 of the NBA draft of high school, college or available international players) could mean earning from USD200 to 700K per year. The article points out that Andrew Wiggins, who signed a 3-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for over USD17million, also signed a 5-year agreement with adidas for another USD11 million.)

Fact #3: Every player in the NBA has a relationship with a sneaker brand; even the benchwarmers, players looking just to make a training camp roster, can get what is called a “merch” deal. Such an agreement with a footwear marketer gets them a free allotment of footwear for practices and games.

Fact #4: Sneaker brands scout out basketball prospects at the college and high school levels, just like basketball scouts do

Fact #5: Nike has dominant share of the NBA player market, as 68% of the 300+ players wear the Swoosh. Adidas is number 2 at 15.6% with about 70 players wearing the three stripes.

For past stories in “The Sneaker Wars” series, see below:

unification mass wedding_February 2016

On Saturday, February 20, approximately 15,000 couples, or 30,000 people were married at a single event called The Holy Marriage Blessing Ceremony, in GapYeong, South Korea. Popularized by Unification Church founder, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, 3,000 of those couples were married in Korea, while the other 12,000 participated via the internet.

One third of the 3,000 couples who were married in the Church’s CheongShim Peace World Center were renewing their vows. But about 800 of the couples agreed to be matched by the Church, a custom that Reverend Moon had heavily endorsed in the past. In fact, these unions have often brought strangers of different nationality or race together.

Rev. Moon, who passed away in 2012, had presided over some of the biggest mass weddings ever, including 30,000 couple in Washington DC in 1997, and 40,000 couples simultaneously in Korea, US, Brazil and Venezuela in 2009.

The Unification Church and its mass marriages are not without their controversy. To nameHiroko Yamasaki one, since this is a blog about the Olympics, is the case of Hiroko Yamasaki (山崎浩子), who was a member of the Japanese rhythmic gymnasitics team at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. Along with a well-known singer and actress, Junko Sakurada, Yamasaki was married at a mass wedding presided over by Rev. Moon, along with 20,000 people from 130 countries, in August of 1992.

According to this account from the newspaper, The Australian, Yamasaki disappeared. No one knew where she had gone, not even her new husband, Hideyuki Teshigawara. Months later, Teshigawara filed a missing person’s report to the police, which led to a nation-wide search for the Olympian.

And then suddenly, one day, Yamasaki appeared, on television, saying “Everything was a mistake.” She went on to say, “I was placed in a world of delusion where people’s minds were being controlled. So I still cannot figure out to what extent the affection I felt towards Teshigawara was real.”

Over two decades later, Yamasaki is now the national coach of the Japanese women’s rhythmic gymnastics team.

FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships 2014
Hiroko Yamasaki (JPN), SEPTEMBER 26, 2014 – Rhythmic Gymnastics : Japan’s ?Reinforcement Coach Hiroko Yamasaki during the FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships 2014 in Izmir, Turkey. (Photo by Takahisa Hirano/AFLO)