Bios Better than Fiction: George Plimpton

From time to time there are bios that are so outrageous you just can’t make them up, which thrills me to no end.  I love reading about an actual person who lived such an incredible and productive life that it is like a work of incredible fiction. I’m hoping to point them out here as I come across them (and hopefully my few readers will point some out to me in the comments).

First off: George Plimpton.  When I was a kid my mom and dad gave me the movie The Paper Lion (VHS!) so I had some idea of who he was. But after VCRs went the way of buggy whips he slipped from my radar. Until the other day, when I came across, which is trying to get a statue of Plimpton erected in New York city.

For a quick read on a fantastic life, hit up wikipedia’s summary of his career.  Here are some bullet points to wet your interest:

  • first editor-in-chief of the Paris Review
  • credited with helping wrestle Sirhan Sirhan to the ground when Robert Kennedy was assassinated
  • pitched against National League Allstars in 1960
  • went to training camp (for research) with 2 NFL teams and actually played quarterback in a preseason game
  • spent some time as a high wire circus performer
  • the host of Disney Channel’s Mousterpiece Theater
  • tried to get Lisa Simpson to throw a spelling bee
  • he was the Fireworks Commissioner of New York
  • wrote the libretto to an opera
  • the namesake for an asteroid

Catching Hell

The Titanic came out when I was in high school. It was all the rage and as an epic I liked it but I only saw it once.  All of the hundreds of thousands of teenage girls who kept going over and over again and blubbering their way through the final hour every time were maddening. I couldn’t understand two things:

  1. They knew what was going to happen so why was it still so damned emotional for them?
  2. If it tore them up that much then why did they keep watching?
I’ve now watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary Catching Hell twice. And I plan on watching it again and then probably again and again. And again. I lived it. I went to the playoff games. I was a bartender on the rooftops that summer. I was involved.

So, with all apologies to those hundreds of thousands of teenage girls I couldn’t understand and ended up criticizing when Titanic was all the rage, I give you two points:
  1. Each time I feel the teers coming to my eyes and each time I can’t stop watching.
  2. Even though I know it is going to rip me apart, I keep going back to watch it anyway.

Polo Takes Over North Beach

A few months back Simone saw something online about Beach Polo being played in Chicago. We bought some VIP passes thinking it would be a fun and interesting way to spend a fall Saturday. It doesn’t happen often, but we were right.

It was a beautiful but cold day to spend on the lake and view was incredible for the 5 hours we were there.  The mustardy yellow of Chicago’s beaches, bright blue skys with expansive, low hanging cloudscapes. And between the two were charging horses with a backdrop of crashing gunmetal gray waves.


The event itself was a lot of fun. There was a good DJ playing between matches, the included food was provided by Union Sushi, an open bar sponsored by Grey Goose, and beach polo is a lot of fun. The mens matches were more exciting as they were very aggressive riders who were incredibly physical and daring considering the lack of protective gear. Also, they could put that ball almost exactly where they wanted it every time. Consider this, the mallet they hit with has a surface area that is like an empty paper towel roll, from their eyes to the ball is roughly 8 feet, there was a 15mph wind off the lake, and to top it all off they were riding a horse at full speed.  It was amazing they could even make contact, let alone pass by perfectly leading another rider and horse charging down the side of the field.

The women in the two opening matches weren’t as practiced or aggressive but they were still very impressive. Their matches were a bit slower but that was actually nice because it was easier to follow, giving me a chance to learn a bit about the sport and the strategy involved.

For more photos, go here.