Before Bridgegate, Before SNL, Gilda Radner Was an Ann Arbor Star

Before becoming a founding member of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner was making her name as a performer with the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. Radner was a student at the University of Michigan and already showing her gift for broad comedy.

This week Radner, who died in 1989, was back in the news, in the guise of her most famous comic alter ego Roseanne Roseannadanna. On SNL's Weekend Update, Roseanne would respond to the complaints of a Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, N.J. This week the New York Times writer Matt Flegenheimer wondered what Richard Leder would think about the controversy over the closing of the George Washington Bridge that connects Fort Lee with Manhattan. The closings have ensnared New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie in a scandal.

Mr. Feder is a real person, the brother-in-law of an SNL staff writer. He never wrote letters to Roseanne, but mock complaining letters in his name and Roseanne's withering replies became famous. In one skit quoted in the Times Mr. Feder complained about his attempts to stop smoking, "I gained weight, my face broke out. I'm nauseous, I'm constipated, my feet swell, my sinuses are clogged, I got heartburn, I'm cranky and I have gas. What should I do."

"Mr. Feder, you sound like a real attractive guy," Ms. Roseannadanna said. "You belong in New Jersey."

As it happens, Mr. Feder was caught in the massive traffic jam around the bridge. Radner's brilliance at creating wild and yet endearing characters first came to life here in Ann Arbor.

Johnny Orr - The Coach With The Most Wins in Wolverine Basketball History

When Johnny Orr resigned as the University of Michigan's head basketball coach in 1980, his teams had compiled the most wins, 209, and the most losses, 113, in the school's history. Orr, who died Dec. 31 at 86, was the longest tenured coach at UM, replacing Dave Strack in 1968 after a year as Strack's assistant. Orr, who had been a head coach at the University of Massachusetts, was a colorful and outspoken personality with a knack for motivating his players and winning the support of fans. In 1976 he took the Wolverines to the N.C.A.A. final against Big 10 rival Indiana University, losing to the Bobby Knight coached Hoosiers 86-68.

In 1980, Orr surprised the basketball community by leaving his position at Michigan for the head coaching job at the less-regarded Iowa State University. He said he took the job because Iowa State offered a substantial salary increase, $45,000 from $33,665 at Michigan, and more extra earning opportunities. Over the next 15 years, he took the Iowa State Cyclones to the N.C.A.A. tournament six times and set Iowa State records for wins and losses, 218-200.

In 1980 Orr was replaced at Michigan by his assistant, Bill Frieder, who would leave the University of Michigan in 1989 for a job at Arizona State University. His team, under his former assistant Steve Fisher, would win the 1989 N.C.A.A. national championship game against Seton Hall. Orr continued to have good relations with Michigan, returning to Crisler Arena for the first time as Cyclones coach in 1989. Orr retired from coaching in 1994 and continued to make his home in Iowa.

U-M Star Billy Taylor & AADL's Old News

Record-setting, 3-time All-American and team MVP Billy Taylor began his career at U-M at the same time as coach Bo Schembechler. Despite his amazing college achievements, he later saw his world come crashing around him as he battled addiction, incarceration and homelessness on the streets of Detroit.

If you missed the inspiring Monday, December 2 AADL screening of the documentary of Billy's life - or if you want to know more about this amazing individual who faced despair but turned his life around. - AADL has an online collection of information about this and other compelling local stories. Documentary filmmaker Dan Chace used AADL resources to research content for the film. Here is a selection of articles gathered on Billy Taylor.

You can easily view thousands of similar articles from local Ann Arbor newspapers over the years, including the Signal of Liberty, The Ann Arbor Argus, The Ann Arbor Courier, and The Ann Arbor News by visiting oldnews.aadl.org.

Veteran Ann Arbor News reporter Bill Treml dead at 88

Bill TremlBill Treml

Veteran Ann Arbor News police reporter, William Treml, who retired in 1996 after 40 years at the paper, died Friday at age 88. Over the course of his distinguished career, Bill Treml earned a reputation as one Ann Arbor's best reporters, sometimes arriving to a crime scene with pen, paper, and camera in hand - and at least once in his pajamas. Treml covered some of our city's historic events, including the 1970 John Norman Collins trial and the 1960s UFO sightings. In 2011, we spoke with Treml about his career at the News and he recalled his toughest assignments as well as shared his personal memories of the friends he made along the way.

Read some of Mr. Treml's articles currently available on Oldnews.

Nixon in Ann Arbor, October 27, 1960

Richard NixonRichard Nixon

On October 27, 1960, less than two weeks before the general election, incumbent Vice President and Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon arrived at the New York Central Railroad depot (now the Gandy Dancer restaurant) to greet a crowd of Ann Arbor supporters. Less than two weeks earlier, John F. Kennedy, the Democrat nominee, came to Ann Arbor and delivered an inspired impromptu speech on the steps of the Michigan Union that helped build momentum toward the establishment of the Peace Corps. Nixon, who always thought he was in second place, but was actually leading in public opinion polls at the time, visited Michigan to shore up support in a state whose votes could tip the balance of the election.

In this series of photographs taken on October 27, 1960 by Ann Arbor News photographers Duane Scheel and Eck Stanger, we see Nixon and his wife, Pat, disembarking from the train, shaking hands with well-wishers, and making their way to the speaker’s platform while surrounded by notable Ann Arborites, including former Ann Arbor mayor Cecil O. Creal; local realtor, Wendell Hobbs; Ann Arbor Police Chief Rolland Gainsley; and his successor, Walter E. Krasny.
 
On the platform, Steven Stockmeyer, head of the University of Michigan's Campus Republicans, presents Nixon with a scroll of student signatures to demonstrate their support, and Nixon flashes his ubiquitous “V” sign. One of the best photographs shows Nixon speaking to the crowd against a backdrop of the old Broadway Bridge. Other photos, including this aerial view and photos taken on the hilly area above Depot St. and below High St. show the extent of the crowd.

Alas for Nixon supporters, Kennedy went on to carry Michigan’s 20 electoral votes and win the election that year.

LBJ and the Great Society Speech

The University of Michigan Commencement of May 22, 1964, set a precedent that may come as a surprise to many Ann Arborites. It was the first time a sitting President spoke on campus. Despite the fact that he would be in town only a short time, the preparations on the campus and in the city to welcome President Lyndon B. Johnson were extensive. Public and private schools were scheduled to close on Commencement Day. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies planned a coordinated security effort to accommodate what was expected to be President Johnson's largest audience.

President Johnson used the opportunity to promote his Great Society initiative, aimed at addressing poverty and racial inequality in the United States. The Ann Arbor News ran the entire text of the speech and University President Harlan H. Hatcher praised a " serious and significant" speech. The election-year speech brought politicians in droves to the commencement and Ann Arbor News reporter Bud Vestal provided insightful commentary on the political interplay throughout the day, especially between LBJ and Governor Romney.

C-SPAN was in town recently filming for an upcoming program on Ann Arbor that includes interviews with local authors, community and cultural leaders. Local historian Grace Shackman, whose Then & Now columns in the Observer have chronicled much of Ann Arbor's past, was interviewed about LBJ's time in Ann Arbor. Coverage of C-SPAN's Ann Arbor visit will be aired on November 16 & 17 on C-SPAN's Book TV and American History TV.

Read all the Ann Arbor News articles on President Johnson's visit to Ann Arbor.

The Monuments Men

One of the most anticipated movies this fall is The Monuments Men, based on the book The Monuments Men : Allied heroes, Nazi thieves, and the greatest treasure hunt in history by Robert M. Edsel.

The Monuments Men, a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of them volunteers, who were museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. These mostly middle-aged family men, walked away from successful careers into the epicenter of the war, risking—and some losing—their lives. They raced against time in order to save the world’s greatest cultural treasures from destruction at the hands of Nazi regime.

A little known fact is that one of these brave men lived among us quietly for decades - Charles Sawyer, a member of the Roberts Commission, established by President Roosevelt on June 23, 1943, charged with promoting the preservation of cultural properties in war areas, provided this mission did not interfere with military operations. Professor Sawyer was the Director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art from 1957-1972.

The Charles Sawyer Center for Museum Studies at the University of Michigan Museum of Art was founded in his honor in 2003. “Charlie” Sawyer passed away after a brief illness on February 25, 2005. Here are the Old News articles on Charles Sawyer.

AADL Talks To WWII Vet Thomas Fournier

In this episode, AADL talks to long-time Kerrytown resident Thomas Fournier. Mr. Fournier is an ex-Seebee and WWII Veteran who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day at the age of 17. Tom survived D-Day and two more amphibious landings in New Guinea and the Philippines before coming home in 1945. Tom talked with AADL about his early life in Detroit and his experience as a Seabee in World War II. His stories of military life and the camaraderie, bravery and humor that sustained the troops are honest and compelling.

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AADL_Talks_To-Thomas_Fournier.mp3 44.6 MB

The African American Cultural & Historical Museum Of Washtenaw County Living Oral History Project

Sunday September 22, 2013: 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm -- Traverwood Branch: Program Room

Join AADL and the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County for this premiere of their Living Oral History Project.

Five community members were identified to initiate the project by participating in a series of professionally filmed and edited.interviews. Interviewees included Rosemarion Blake, Russell Calvert, Lydia Morton, Willis Patterson, and Johnnie Mae Seeley.

The interviews serve as a road map to what African Americans witnessed, experienced, shared, and contributed in building the community we see today. Topics such as race, gender and education equality, faith, housing, employment, community building activities, and infrastructure were presented and discussed, providing a spectrum relevant to issues and concerns within Washtenaw County.

This event will include a short program and an opportunity to speak with those interviewed. Light refreshments will be served. The Oral History project and the video interviews will be available for viewing and download on the Library website following the premiere.

The State Theater ~ State of the Art Movie House

The opening of a new movie theater is always a big news item but it was especially noteworthy for the State Theater. The State opened in the midst of World War II when Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County were focused on their role of building bombers and equipment for the United States military. The building of the theater was announced in November, 1940 with a planned opening date of August 1941. When the theater finally opened in March, 1942, the Ann Arbor News devoted an entire section of the March 17th issue to the gala event.

The section included articles on the Butterfield Company and its founder, W. S. Butterfield. The News reported on the modern equipment, the modern design, the modern screen, even the cooling system. The building of the State involved 35 companies, including many local firms. To make way for the theater, six businesses were removed. Butterfield moved Majestic Theater manager Larry Mull and his staff to the State.

Local businesses took out dispaly ads welcoming the State, and the PR machine of the movie studios went into high gear sending telegrams from stars like Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and Mickey Rooney congratulating the State. The opening movie was The Fleet's In starring Dorothy Lamour and William Holden. The News even reached back into their archives to recount the famous student riot of 1908 at the Star Theater.

Grace Shackman's Then & Now article on the Whitney Theater fills in the local theater scene. Old News had published articles on many of Ann Arbor's theaters.

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