Vanity Fair Blog

Name dropping has become the modus operandi of journalists when they talk about squash: Roger Federer, Pervez Musharraf, John Dryden. 

The latest media mentions:

—The Times of London ran an interesting piece during the Wimbledon fortnight about how squash has helped out tennis players. It has gotten so common that the Times figures there is a new shot derived from all this squash playing: the wrist hinge. It is a forehand flick. It appears when playing a serve or cross-court “wide out on the stretch,” as the Times describes it and you slice it back with a lot of wrist and a touch of hope. Federer played squash regularly as a child with his father; Andy Murray grew up playing as well. Time to get the U.S. Open finalists to the real U.S. Open—the squash Open.

Harvard Magazine mentioned in its July-August issue that the university’s oldest alum, Al Gordon, ‘23, was unable to make it to his 85th reunion this June (excuses, excuses….I mean everyone should go to their 85th reunion). Al had his 107th birthday in July. He is also the grandfather of seventy-eighth ranked squash star Chris Gordon. I guess that is like shooting your age in golf: getting your world squash ranking under your grandfather’s age.

—This summer Alex Beam started producing the most interesting, insightful and entirely snark-free squash blog this side of The Direct. Beam, a twice-a-week columnist at the Boston Globe and a high C player, has written more than a half dozen entries at the website for Vanity FairBeam, with a delightfully wry tone, dilates on such items as Mushaffarf’s game, Victor Niederhoffer’s daughter Galt, squash at the White House and summer camp at Wesleyan.

My favorite entry was about squash at the New Yorker in the 1970s and 1980s. Very cleverly he got Dan Menaker to do the dilating for him. Menaker remembered the New Yorker’sladder, posted on a bulletin board on the 19th floor of the old offices; watching Sharif Khan v. Niederhoffer at a tournament; and the general vibe of the early eighties: “Squash was a huge deal for a while back then—everybody played or tried to.”

Menaker did mention Herbert Warren Wind, the one renowned New Yorker writer (and former player) but he did forget one classic: the real “Khan,” E.J. Kahn, Jr. This Kahn never wrote about the game for the magazine like Wind, but he did mention squash a couple of times in his famously dishy memoir About The New Yorker & Me: A Sentimental Journey (G.P. Putnam, 1979). Kahn talked about playing doubles with John McPhee at a court in New Jersey (either Princeton or Sea Bright?). He said that McPhee, the great nonfiction writer, had a solid game, “straightforward and first-rate.”

Kahn also had a great story about Allison Danzig, the old squash and tennis writer. He offered to give Danzig, rushing for a train after the finals, a lift from the national tennis doubles at Longwood back to New York. But his brakes froze up. They had to take a taxi from Worcester to Boston (couldn’t have been cheap) and finally arrived back in New York at one in the morning. Kahn doesn’t say this, but it must have been cool to have Danzig alone for that long, to pick the memory of the guy knew more about racquet sports than anyone else alive.

One Response to “Beam’s Blog—Media Watch VI”

  1. Guy Cipriano Says:
    I suspect that the doubles court in NJ referenced above was the Sea Bright court. Bill Robinson, fomer editor of Yachting Magazine and a very well known man for 5 decades in publishing circles in NYC, was the patron saint of the Sea Bright court . He also was a member of the very well known Sea Bright Lawn Tennis Club which is only 5 minutes away . It was the site of one of the top tournaments in the old eastern grass court circuit which was the focus of amateur tennis in America for decades, including Longwood, Rockaway, Newport, Germantown and Merion, Piping Rock and a few others. The court was recently renovated and is in brilliant shape, although it seldom is used.

Crazy-Quilt Stargown

I just spent much of last month talking with and about Mark Talbott, for a cover article in the current issue of Squash Magazine; the eight-page profile is dotted with a dozen vintage photos of Mark from a quarter century ago. I learned a lot more about someone everyone in the American squash scene knows something about, including a couple of great trivia bits. 

Mark wears a size eight and a half shoe. Despite his six foot frame, he has tiny feet. Is this the smallest pair of feet ever to win a major adult men’s squash tournament? His feet are almost a third the size of perhaps the most famous clodhoppers in pro sports, Bob Lanier’s size twenty-two gunboats, which are so big that the NBA made a bronze cast of them.

The other fact-checking item was about the Grateful Dead. Everybody knows that in the 1980s Mark crossreferenced the touring schedules of the WPSA and the Dead. He told me that, contrary to the estimated seventy shows that I wrote in my 1997 profile of Mark for Squash News, he had actually attended more or less around a hundred shows. (Mark has a better sense of how many pro singles tournament wins he garnered—which is officially around one hundred and sixteen and perhaps even more; how many other people have both their pro tournament career win list and Dead show list in triple digits?)

His first show was at Robert F. Kennedy stadium in Washington in June 1973. Two of his older brothers took their just-turned thirteen kid brother down from Baltimore to see the Dead and the Allman Brothers. He said that of the hundred shows, that first one at RFK was still the best of them all. He wasn’t sure which night he went to, the 9th  or the 10th, but you can look at both set lists and the comments and know that they were good shows.

No doubt. My first show was at JFK in Philadelphia in July 1987. It was still the best show I saw—like a crazy-quilt stargown through a dream night wind.

One Response to “Crazy-Quilt Stargown”

  1. Guy Cipriano Says:
    My first show was also the Dead and the Allmans held at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, also in 73. It must have been on the same tour. Great stuff. Duane and Butch were still alive and rocking the place.They tore down Roosevelt Stadium, a depression age hulk built for the Triple A Jersey City Giants and built a shopping mall in 2000. I also saw AS Lazio with Giorgio Chinaglia play Santos FC with Pele there in 1974. They sold 40,000 tix for a stadium that held 25,000. Great game, great memories.