Michael Costello, alias The Amazing Blondini, Brighton UK, 1955

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

1955:  Mike Costello, otherwise known as Blondini or the White Yogi, lying on a bed of nails whilst balancing a woman on his chest.  (Photo by Reg Coote/BIPs/Getty Images)

1955: Mike Costello, otherwise known as Blondini or the White Yogi, lying on a bed of nails whilst balancing a woman on his chest. (Photo by Reg Coote/BIPs/Getty Images)

Michael Costello (1922-1996), fairground performer and escapologist, was born at a fairground in Dublin, Ireland in August 1922; both his parents were fairground novelty acts from Tralee, his father a strongman and his mother a fortune teller. He had no formal education and spent his formative years on the fairgrounds of Ireland and England. At 13 he left his family and began his career as the world’s youngest sword-swallower. Two years later he added fire-eating to his act. However, after his sister fell to her death during her trapeze act, he left the fairgrounds and spent many years as a drifter, mostly around Dublin.
In 1939 Costello moved to London and worked for a time with a quack, selling health potions. With the onset of the second World War he joined the British army as an infantryman. After the war he returned to the business of entertaining. He became an escapologist, learned the art of self-hypnosis, developed into a strongman and was also an explosives expert. His stunts included lying on a bed of nails and inviting people to walk on him, pulling a Rolls-Royce with his teeth and lying in a coffin filled with explosives and blowing it up.
He toured the world under the name the Amazing Blondini, and his death-defying stunts attracted audiences of more than 10,000 people. He was constantly inventing new stunts and acts: at Bellevue fairground in Manchester in 1975 he was buried alive for 78 days. His acts were not illusions, and on one occasion he was badly burned after his exploding coffin trick went wrong; however, he continued to perform the trick well into his 60th year.
Described as “one of the worlds greatest circus performers”, Costello appeared in fairgrounds and theatres in Asia, the US, South Africa and Europe. He also worked as a film stuntman for actors such as Alan Ladd and Victor Mature and appeared on many British television shows, including The Billy Cotton Band Show, Sunday Night at the London Palladiumand The Russell Harty Show.
Costello died on November 20th 1996 in Wicklow and is buried in Greystones. He had been visiting his friend and biographer Gordon Thomas and was thinking of retiring to Ireland. He was survived by his common-law wife, Sally. (Adapted from the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography.)

“…the Coffin of Death… was a deceptively simple stunt in which Blondini climbed into a plywood coffin lined with explosive… (he) lit the fuse and pulled the rug over his head. The explosion broke glass in the Law Courts, a hundred yards away. When the smoke cleared, the awed and dazed audience ran forward and carried the semi-conscious Blondini (bleeding from both ears) shoulder high.” Excerpt from: “Granada Television – The First Generation” by John Finch, Michael Cox, Marjorie Giles

Mike Costello, aka Blondini, demonstrates the muscular strength of his neck as a rope is tightened around his neck by his bikini-clad assistants. (Photo by Reg Coote/BIPs/Getty Images)

Mike Costello, aka Blondini, demonstrates the muscular strength of his neck as a rope is tightened around his neck by his bikini-clad assistants. (Photo by Reg Coote/BIPs/Getty Images)

A bed of nails is an oblong piece of wood, the size of a bed, with nails pointing upwards out of it. It appears to the spectator that anyone lying on this “bed” would be injured by the nails, but this is not so. Assuming the nails are numerous enough, the weight is distributed between them such that the pressure exerted by each nail is not enough to puncture the person’s skin.
One use of such a device is for magic tricks or physics demonstrations. A famous example requires a volunteer to lie on a bed of several thousand nails, with a board on top of him. Cinder blocks are placed on the board and then smashed with a sledgehammer. Despite the seemingly unavoidable force, the volunteer is not harmed: the force from the blow is spread among the thousands of nails, resulting in reduced pressure; the breaking of the blocks also dissipates much of the energy from the hammer. This demonstration of the principles of weight distribution requires that the weight of the volunteer be spread over as many nails as possible. The most dangerous part is the moment of lying down or getting up, when one’s weight may briefly be supported on only a few nails. Some “beds” have rails mounted at the sides to help users lie down and get up safely. The bed of nails is used by some for meditation, particularly in Asia, and for certain health benefits, such as back pain relief, see acupressure mat.
Sources / More to Read:
Irish Times: Irish Lives – Michael Costello
Wikipedia: Bed of Nails
Mashable: Bed of Nails
The Illusionist – A Journey in Local Magic, an Interview with Jim Doherty


John Surtees, Isle of Man 1958 & Monaco 1963

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

John Surtees riding a 500cc M.V. Agusta - Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, 1958 (mbike.com photo album by Maanala)

John Surtees riding a 500cc M.V. Agusta – Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, 1958 (mbike.com photo album by Maanala)

John Surtees driving a Ferrari T56 - Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco, 1963 (p: Yves Debraine)

John Surtees driving a Ferrari T56 – Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco, 1963 (p: Yves Debraine)

John Surtees, CBE (1934- ) is a British former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer and Formula One driver. He is truly unique in motorsport, remains the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels. Riding for the celebrated MV Agusta team, he won seven World Championships between 1956 and 1960. Then – with nothing left to prove – he made the transition from two wheels to four, winning the Formula One World Championship with Ferrari in 1964. The versatile racer – who also drove for the Lotus, Cooper, Honda and BRMworks teams – was equally at home in sports cars, winning the 1000km races at Nürburgring and Monza for Ferrari as well as the 1966 CanAm Championship in the Lola T70 he helped develop.
Surtees is the son of a south London motorcycle dealer. He had his first professional outing, when he was 15, in the sidecar of his father’s Vincent, which they won. However, when race officials discovered Surtees’s age, they were disqualified.
In 1955, Norton race chief Joe Craig gave Surtees his first factory sponsored ride aboard the Nortons. He finished the year by beating reigning world champion Duke at Silverstone and then at Brands Hatch. However, with Norton in financial trouble and uncertain about their racing plans, Surtees accepted an offer to race for the MV Agusta factory racing team. In 1956 Surtees won the 500cc world championship, MV Agusta’s first in the senior class. In the 1957 season, the MV Agustas were no match for the Gileras and Surtees battled to a third-place finish aboard a 1957 MV Agusta 500 Quattro. When Gilera and Moto Guzzi pulled out of Grand Prix racing at the end of 1957, Surtees and MV Agusta went on to dominate the competition. In 1958, 1959 and 1960, he won 32 out of 39 races and became the first man to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man TT three years in succession. In 1960, at the age of 26, Surtees switched from motorcycles to cars full-time, making his Formula 1 debut racing for Lotus in the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. He made an immediate impact with a second-place finish in only his second Formula One World Championship race, at the 1960 British Grand Prix, and a pole position at his third, the 1960 Portuguese Grand Prix. He moved to Scuderia Ferrari in 1963 and won the World Championship for the Italian team in 1964. In December 1966, Surtees signed for Honda. He finished fourth in the 1967 drivers’ championship. In 1970, Surtees formed his own race team, the Surtees Racing Organisation, and spent nine seasons competing in Formula 5000, Formula 2 and Formula 1 as a constructor. He retired from competitive driving in 1972, the same year the team had their greatest success when Mike Hailwood won the European Formula 2 Championship. The team was finally disbanded at the end of 1978.
During his remarkable racing career Surtees won 290 of the 621 races he entered and claimed a further 103 podium finishes, recording 48 fastest laps and 100 record laps along the way.
In 1996, Surtees was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. In the 2016 New Year Honours, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to motorsport.
Sources / More to Read:
John Surtees Official site
Wikipedia: John Surtees
MBike: Photo Album
Primotipo: Lotus 25 – Jim Clark – Monaco 1963…
Στα Ελληνικά:
ΜotoGP Legends: John Surtees

Tourist Trophy Races, Isle of Man, 1958 (National Motor Museum, UK)

Solomon Osagie Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, ca.1950’s

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Gaius Ikuobase Obaseki, government member of the Benin Kingdom, Benin City, Nigeria, ca. 1950's (Photo: Solomon Osagie Alonge)

Gaius Ikuobase Obaseki, government member of the Benin Kingdom, Benin City, Nigeria, ca. 1950’s (Photo: S.O. Alonge)

Seated man with hat, Benin City, Nigeria, ca. 1950's (Photo: Solomon Osagie Alonge)

Seated man with hat, Benin City, Nigeria, ca. 1950’s (Photo: S.O. Alonge)

The kingdom of Benin, home of the Edo-speaking peoples, is located in the tropical rain forest region of what is now Nigeria. An oba, or king, and his court have, from around 1300 C.E., governed the kingdom from Benin City, the capital. Within the kingdom, specialized artists belonged to guilds with hereditary membership and worked solely for the oba.
Oba Akenzua II (reign 1933–78) understood the significance of photography in documenting and preserving the 20th-century history and traditions of the Benin kingdom. During his reign, he reinstituted many social, political, and traditional practices prohibited by the British after the destruction of the royal palace and the exile of Oba Ovonramwen, during the punitive Expedition of 1897. When Akenzua II, took over in 1933, Solomon Osagie Alonge became his court photographer.
“Chief” Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911–1994) was a self-taught photographer and pioneer of Nigerian photography. He was the first official photographer for the royal court of Benin City, Nigeria, and a chief in the Iwebo palace society. Alonge’s record of Nigerian royalty and social class is one of the most extensive and well-preserved collections from the period.
Alonge learned English at the Benin Baptist Elementary School and at the age of 14 moved to Lagos where he developed an interest in photography and took on an apprenticeship. In 1930, Alonge returned to Benin and began practicing photography from his home. In 1933, he became the photographer of the royal court.
Alonge’s work spans half a century and record the reigns of Oba Akenzua II (1933-1978) and Oba Erediauwa (1979-present). Alonge photographed the political and social events surrounding the royal palace, including the royal wives and children, visiting dignitaries and politicians, and annual festivals and court ceremonies. In the late 1930s, he became a founding member of the Benin Social Circle, a group of businessmen, leaders, and the educated elite.
In 1942, he created the Ideal Photo Studio in Benin City. Alonge’s studio portraits of Benin residents provide rare insight into the early history and practice of studio photography in Nigeria. In the 1930s and 1940s, many Nigerians patronized photography studios for the first time, presenting themselves and their families to the camera in ways they wished to be photographed. At that time, it cost two to three shillings for a professional portrait, an amount that was unaffordable to many. Those who could afford it dressed up in the latest fashions or in distinctive traditional textiles to get their portrait taken. Some individuals expressed themselves with their own cosmopolitan style of dress and hairstyles, while others dressed alike for special occasions such as funerals or to express their solidarity with extended family, social, and political groups.
Alonge’s photography preserves an important historical record of Benin arts and culture during the periods of British colonial rule and the transition to Nigerian independence during the 1950s and 1960s. Over 3,000 of Alonge’s photographs have been archived at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. His work is exhibited in the Museum until January 2016.
Sources / More to Read:
Wikipedia: Solomon Osagie Alonge
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art: Solomon Osagie Alonge
Wikipedia: Benin Empire
Wikipedia: Benin Expedition of 1897
The Obaseki Family of Benin, Edo State of Nigiria

Piero Tosi & Maria Callas, Milano 1955

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Piero Tosi & Maria Callas behind the scenes of La Sonnambula directed by Luchino Visconti in the Teatro alla Scala, 1955 (Erio Piccagliani)

Piero Tosi & Maria Callas behind the scenes of La Sonnambula directed by Luchino Visconti in the Teatro alla Scala, Milano 1955 (Erio Piccagliani)

Piero Tosi
(1927- ) is an Italian costume designer, born in Florence, Italy. In the late 1940s, he studied at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti, under the guidance of painter Ottone Rosai. At the age of 20, Tosi landed his first professional job as costume assistant on a stage production of the classic Le chandelier. Soon after, Tosi met renowned stage and film director Luchino Visconti through school friend Franco Zeffirelli and worked as a costume assistant on Visconti’s 1949 Florentine production of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. In 1951, Tosi moved to Rome, where he began his film career, scouring the streets to find clothes for star Anna Magnani to wear in Visconti’s neorealistic tale “Bellissima” (1952), the first of 12 films he made with the director. His second picture with Visconti, 1954’s “Senso”, marked Tosi’s period film debut and introduced audiences to his lush, sensual designs. “I believe,” he once stated, “that an actor’s costume has to mirror the character wearing it, and also life.” Tosi’s screen career took off in the 1960s with a string of critically acclaimed films, including Visconti’s “Rocco and his Brothers” (1960), “The Leopard” (1963) – for which he received his first Oscar nomination – and “The Damned” (1969); Vittorio De Sica’s comedy “Marriage Italian Style” (1964); the Peter Sellers farce “After the Fox” (1966); and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea” (1969), for which he designed ancient Greek apparel for diva Maria Callas.
In all of his designs, Tosi explored the “architecture of the body,” noting that “every eight years the human body changes completely.” Obsessed with the human form, Tosi worked to mold actor to costume as much as costume to actor. Sometimes, Tosi also designed the actor’s hair and makeup, striving for a complete and authentic look. For Visconti’s “Death in Venice” (1971), Tosi created almost 700 period costumes, representing a range of ages and types, and received his second Oscar nod for his efforts. Three more Oscar nominations followed: for the Visconti production “Ludwig” (1973), for the flashy, modern comedy “La Cage aux Follies” (1979, shared with Ambra Danon) and for Zeffirelli’s opera adaptation “La Traviata” (1982).
Tosi continued to design into the 2000s, and in 2003 received the Costume Designers Guild’s inaugural President’s Award. Today, he spends his time teaching his craft at Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, happily sharing his remarkable visual memory, his passion for authentic detail and his special language of design with tomorrow’s young filmmakers. An Honorary Academy Award was given to Piero Tosi on November 16, 2013  after a career of fifty years as a costume designer, and with five Best Costume design nominations.

From "Maria Callas & Swarovski: Jewels on Stage" exhibition

From “Maria Callas & Swarovski: Jewels on Stage” exhibition

Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo (1906–1976), was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. He is best known for his films The Leopard (1963) and Death in Venice (1971). During the years 1946 to 1960 he directed many celebrated productions of operas. Beginning when he directed a production at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala of “La vestale” in December 1954, his career included a famous revival of “La traviata” at La Scala in 1955 with Maria Callas and an equally famous Anna Bolena (also at La Scala) in 1957 with Callas.
Visconti’s direction of Bellini’s opera, “La Sonambula”, in 1955, was an early incarnation of what is now called a “concept” approach. The director insisted Maria Callas wear a dazzling white gown and her jewelry onstage, whilst playing a poor peasant girl. When Callas questioned this choice, Visconti famously responded:

“The audience is not paying to see a poor peasant girl. They are paying to see Maria Callas play a poor peasant girl.”

A significant 1958 Royal Opera House (London) production of Verdi’s five-act Italian version of “Don Carlos” (with Jon Vickers) followed, along with a “Macbeth” in Spoleto in 1958 and a famous black-and-white “Il trovatore” with scenery and costumes by Filippo Sanjust at the Royal Opera House in 1964. In 1966 Visconti’s luscious “Falstaff” for the Vienna State Opera conducted by Leonard Bernstein was critically acclaimed. On the other hand, his austere 1969 “Simon Boccanegra” with the singers clothed in geometrical costumes provoked controversy.
La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) is an opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini set to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on a scenario for a ballet-pantomime written by Eugene Scribe and choreographed by Jean-Pierre Aumer called “La somnambule, ou L’arrivee d’un nouveau seigneur”. The first performance took place at the Teatro Carcano (it) in Milan on 6 March 1831.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Biography – Piero Tosi
Wikipedia: Piero Tosi
IMDb: Piero Tosi
Wikipedia: Luchino Visconti
Wikipedia: La sonnambula
More to read:
Silver Screen Modes: Who is Piero Tosi?
Opera Chic: Maria Callas’ Bling at the NYC MET

For more, see my other postS:
Part One – Maria Callas on the beach, 1956
PART TWO – Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas, London 1959

Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas, London 1959

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas at a party at

Aristotle Onassis & Maria Callas at a party at “The Dorchester”, London 1959 (Photo: Desmond O’Neill)

Aristotle Onassis (Aristotelis Onasis; 1906 – 1975) was a Greek shipping magnate and businessman. Onassis amassed the world’s largest privately owned shipping fleet and was one of the world’s richest and most famous men. He was known for his business success, his great wealth and also his personal life.
Onassis was born in Smyrna and fled the city with his family to Greece in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War in 1922. Onassis moved to Argentina in 1923 and he got a job as a telephone engineer. Poor but clever, he eavesdropped on business calls and used the information to set up deals of his own. Onassis was soon making loads of money and buying beautiful clothes. His ability to reinvent himself as an “important businessman” during the day, yet continuing to work the phone lines in coveralls at night, was an early indication of his shrewd social and business skills.
Onassis’ first big idea came in the mid-1920s, when he overheard a phone call about a new “talkie” that would have its main character smoke a cigarette. Onassis got the idea to start his own brand of cigarettes. He chose a famous opera singer as the perfect model. To get her to smoke his brand in public, he showed up at her dressing room with a giant bouquet of flowers. Amazingly, Onassis seduced her. She, of course, smoked his brand of cigarettes.

Aristoteles Onassis in1932

Aristoteles Onassis in 1932

By the age of 25, his tobacco business made him a millionaire. Building on his wealth, he realized that the shipping magnates who hauled the tobacco made more than the cigarette manufacturer. This realization came to him at the height of the Great Depression. Just when everyone was getting out of the shipping business, Onassis was able to buy six ships for less than half of what they would normally be worth.
At the outbreak of World War II, Onassis leased his cargo ships to the Allies. His wealth grew enormously, and so did his social standing. He began dating a string of famous women. Within a few years, he met the daughter of the richest shipping magnate in the world, Athina Livanos, a woman almost half his age. They married and had two children.
Moving to Monaco, Onassis rivaled Prince Rainer III for economic control of the country through his ownership of SBM and in the mid 1950s sought to secure an oil shipping arrangement with Saudi Arabia and engaged in whaling expeditions.

“If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning” – Aristotle Onassis

In 1957 Onassis met Maria Callas during a party in Venice promoted by Elsa Maxwell. They embarked on an affair despite the fact they were both married. After this first encounter, Onassis commented to Spyros Skouras: “There [was] just a natural curiosity; after all, we were the most famous Greeks alive in the world.” The affair received much publicity in the popular press, and in November 1959, Callas left her husband. The relationship ended in 1968, when Onassis left Callas in favor of Jacqueline Kennedy. The two married on Onassis’ privately owned island. However, the Onassis family’s private secretary, Kiki, writes in her memoir that even while Aristotle was with Jackie, he frequently met up with Maria in Paris, where they resumed what had now become a clandestine affair.
In 1973, Onassis’s 24 year old son, Alexander, died in a terrible plane crash. He was greatly affected by the death and two years later, on March 15, 1975, Aristotle Onassis died. It was said that Maria Callas, his true love, never recovered from his death. She died two and a half years later.
Wikipedia: Aristotle Onassis
Biography.com: Aristotle OnassisWikipedia: Maria Callas
More to read:
HEC: The Life of Aristotle Onassis – The Man, the Myth, the Legend

“Αν δεν υπήρχαν οι γυναίκες, όλα τα λεφτά του κόσμου δεν θα είχαν καμία απολύτως σημασία” Αριστοτέλης Ωνάσης

Στα Ελληνικά:
Σαν Σήμερα: Βιογραφία Αριστοτέλη Ωνάση

For more, see my other postS:
Part One – Maria Callas on the beach, 1956
PART THREE – piero tosi & Maria Callas, Milano 1955

Maria Callas on the beach, Venice 1956

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Maria Callas on Venice Lido beach, Italy 1956 (Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche)

Maria Callas on Venice Lido beach, Italy 1956 (Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche)

Maria Callas
(1923 – 1977), was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Critics praised her bel canto technique, wide-ranging voice and dramatic interpretations. Her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini and further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini. Her musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina.
Born in New York City and raised by an overbearing mother, she received her musical education in Greece and established her career in Italy. Forced to deal with the exigencies of wartime poverty and with myopia that left her nearly blind onstage, she endured struggles and scandal over the course of her career. She turned herself from a heavy woman into a svelte and glamorous one after a mid-career weight loss, which might have contributed to her vocal decline and the premature end of her career. The press exulted in publicizing Callas’s allegedly temperamental behavior, her supposed rivalry with Renata Tebaldi and her love affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Although her dramatic life and personal tragedy have often overshadowed Callas the artist in the popular press, her artistic achievements were such that Leonard Bernstein called her “the Bible of opera” and, in 2006, Opera News wrote of her: “Nearly thirty years after her death, she’s still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music’s best-selling vocalists.”

“It was a flawed voice. But then Callas sought to capture in her singing not just beauty but a whole humanity, and within her system, the flaws feed the feeling, the sour plangency and the strident defiance becoming aspects of the canto. They were literally defects of her voice; she bent them into advantages of her singing.”
Ethan Mordden, author


Maria Callas & Giovanni Battista Meneghini, Venice Lido beach, 1956

Callas’s Italian opera debut took place at the Verona Arena in August 1947, in a performance of La Gioconda. In 1949 she married Giovanni Battista Meneghini, an older, wealthy industrialist, who assumed control of her career until 1959. It was Meneghini’s love and support that gave Callas the time needed to establish herself in Italy. Though her voice captivated audiences, as her fame increased, Callas developed a reputation as a demanding diva.
In 1954, Callas made her American debut in Norma at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The performance was a triumph. In 1956, she had the opportunity to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Within three years of the performance, Callas’s health began to rapidly decline, as did her marriage.
In 1957, while still married to Meneghini, Callas was introduced to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis at a party given in her honor. The affair that followed received much publicity in the popular press, and in November 1959, Callas left her husband.
During the 1960s, her performances grew fewer and farther between, as a result of her frequent cancellations. Michael Scott asserts that Onassis was not why Callas largely abandoned her career, but that he offered her a way out of a career that was made increasingly difficult by scandals and by vocal resources that were diminishing at an alarming rate. Franco Zeffirelli, on the other hand, recalls asking Callas in 1963 why she had not practiced her singing, and Callas responding that “I have been trying to fulfill my life as a woman.”
Though she formally retired from the stage in the early ’60s, Callas made a brief return to performing with the Metropolitan Opera from January 1964 through July 1965. Her final operatic performance was in Tosca at Covent Garden on July 5, 1965.
The relationship with Onassis ended in 1968, when he left Callas in favor of Jacqueline Kennedy.
In 1969, the Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini cast Callas in her only non-operatic acting role, as the Greek mythological character of Medea. From October 1971 to March 1972, Callas gave a series of master classes in New York. She staged a series of joint recitals in Europe in 1973 and in the U.S., South Korea. Her final public performance was on November 11, 1974, in Sapporo, Japan.
Callas spent her last years living largely in isolation in Paris and died at age 53 on September 16, 1977, of a heart attack. Her ashes were scattered over the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Greece, according to her wish.

More to read:
Wikipedia: Maria Callas
Στα Ελληνικά:
Κοινο_Τοπία: Μαρία Κάλλας: Μια προσέγγιση στο μύθο της
Σαν σήμερα: Μαρία Κάλλας

Bert Trautmann, 1956

Colorization: Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization: Manos Athanasiadis

Bert Trautmann dives for the ball moments before the collision which left him with a broken neck, during the FA Cup 1956

Bert Trautmann dives for the ball moments before the collision which left him with a broken neck (FA Cup Final) 1956

Bernhard Carl “Bert” Trautmann, (1923 – 2013) was a German professional footballer who played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964.
Brought up during times of inter-war strife in Germany, Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe early in the Second World War, serving as a paratrooper. He fought on the Eastern Front for three years, earning five medals, including an Iron Cross. In 1944, he was transferred to the Western Front, where he was captured by the British as the war drew to a close. Earlier, he had been captured by the Russians and the French Resistance, but escaped both times. With the war drawing to a close, Trautmann did not attempt a third escape.
As a volunteer soldier who had been subject to indoctrination from a young age, he was classified a category “C” prisoner by the authorities, meaning he was regarded as a Nazi. Trautmann, of only 90 of his original 1,000-man regiment to survive the war, was then transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp, near Northwich. He was soon downgraded to non-Nazi “B” status, after which he was taken to PoW camp in Lancashire.
Trautmann refused an offer of repatriation, and following his release in 1948, settled in Lancashire, combining farm work with playing goalkeeper for a local football team, St Helens Town.
“When people ask me about life, I say my education began when I got to England. I learnt about humanity, tolerance and forgiveness.”
Performances for St Helens gained Trautmann a reputation as an outstanding goalkeeper, resulting in interest from Football League clubs. In October 1949, he signed for Manchester City, a club playing in the country’s highest level of football, the First Division. Some Manchester City fans were unhappy about signing a former member of the Luftwaffe. In addition to this difficulty, Trautmann was replacing the recently retired Frank Swift, one of the greatest keepers in the club’s history. Though privately expressing doubts about the signing, the club captain, Eric Westwood, a Normandy veteran, made a public display of welcoming Trautmann by announcing, “There’s no war in this dressing room”. Season ticket holders threatened a boycott, and various groups in Manchester and around the country bombarded the club with protest letters. Manchester boasted a sizeable Jewish community and 20,000 demonstrated against City’s new signing before Dr. Altmann, the communal Rabbi, appealed for the German player to be offered a chance, reminding everyone that an individual should not be punished for his country’s sins.
“Thanks to Altmann, after a month it was all forgotten,”… “Later, I went into the Jewish community and tried to explain things. I tried to give them an understanding of the situation for people in Germany in the 1930s and their bad circumstances. I asked if they had been in the same position, under a dictatorship, how they would have reacted? By talking like that, people began to understand.”… “I volunteered when I was 17. People say ‘why?’, but when you are a young boy war seems like an adventure. Then, when you’re involved in fighting it’s very different, you see all the horrible things that happen, the death, the bodies, the scariness. You can’t control yourself. Your whole body is shaking and you’re making a mess in your pants.”… “Growing up in Hitler’s Germany, you had no mind of your own. You didn’t think of the enemy as people at first. Then, when you began taking prisoners, you heard them cry for their mother and father. You said ‘Oh’. When you met the enemy, he became a real person. The longer the war went on, you started having doubts. But Hitler’s was a dictatorial regime and you couldn’t say what you wanted. In the German army, you got your orders and you followed them. If you didn’t, you were shot.”… “I kept nothing from the war; I don’t have my Iron Cross any more.”
Trautmann made his first team debut on 19 November against Bolton Wanderers, and after a competent display in his first home match, protests shrank as fans discovered his talent. He continued to receive abuse from crowds at away matches, which affected his concentration in some early games.
City’s match against Fulham in January 1950 was Trautmann’s first visit to London. The match received widespread media attention, as most of the British press were based there; several leading sportswriters watched Trautmann in action for the first time. The damage caused to the city by the Luftwaffe meant former paratrooper Trautmann was a target of hatred for the crowd, who yelled “Kraut” and “Nazi”. City were struggling in the league, and widely expected to suffer a heavy defeat but a string of saves from Trautmann meant the final score was a narrow 1–0 loss. At the final whistle, Trautmann received a standing ovation, and was applauded off the pitch by both sets of players.
Over time, Trautmann gained acceptance through his performances in the City goal, playing in all but five of the club’s next 250 matches.
Manchester City had a strong season in 1955–56, finishing fourth in the league and Trautmann, won the FWA Footballer of the Year Award, the first goalkeeper to win the award. Two days later, Trautmann stepped out onto the Wembley pitch for the match that would gain him worldwide acclaim.

From Hitler Youth to Manchester City

From Hitler Youth to Manchester City F.C

The 1956 FA Cup Final was contested between Manchester City and Birmingham City at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday 5 May 1956. The match was watched by a crowd of 100,000 and a television audience of five million.
In the 75th minute, Trautmann, diving at an incoming ball, was knocked out in a collision with Birmingham’s Peter Murphy in which he was hit in the neck by Murphy’s right knee. No substitutes were permitted in those days, so Trautmann, dazed and unsteady on his feet, carried on. For the remaining 15 minutes he defended his net, making a crucial interception to deny Murphy once more. Despite his injury, he continued to play, making crucial saves to preserve his team’s 3–1 lead. No further goals were scored, and the referee blew for full time. As the players left the field, the crowd sang a chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” in tribute to Trautmann’s bravery. Roy Paul led his team up the steps to the royal box to receive Manchester City’s third FA Cup. Trautmann’s neck continued to cause him pain, and Prince Philip commented on its crooked state as he gave Trautmann his winner’s medal. Three days later, an examination revealed that Trautmann had broken a bone in his neck. He had dislocated five vertebrae, the second of which was cracked in two. The third vertebra had wedged against the second, preventing further damage.
“Wherever I go, people always ask about my neck. I still have pain if I make unexpected movements of my head. But I was very lucky: surgeons told me I could have died or been paralysed.”
Trautmann played for Manchester City until 1964, making 545 appearances. On 15 April 1964, he ended his career with a testimonial in front of a crowd officially numbered at 47,000, though the true figure was estimated to be closer to 60,000. Trautmann captained a combined Manchester City and Manchester United XI against an International XI.
After his playing career, he moved into management and later as part of a German Football Association development scheme. In 2004, he was appointed an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for promoting Anglo-German understanding through football.
Trautmann died at home in Valencia, Spain, on 19 July 2013, aged 89.
Wikipedia: Bert Trautmann
Wikipedia: 1956 FA Cup Final
Guardian: Bert Trautmann: from Nazi paratrooper to hero of Manchester City

Άρθρα στα Ελληνικά:
Τρελοποδόσφαιρο: Ένας Γερμανός στο Μάντσεστερ
iefimerida: Μπερτ Τράουτμαν: Το πρωτοπαλίκαρο των Ναζί που λατρεύτηκε στην Αγγλία

Ni Pollok, ca. 1950

Colorization: Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization: Manos Athanasiadis

Ni Pollok, wife & model of painter Adrien Le Mayeur (photo: Charles Breijer) 1947-1953

Ni Pollok, wife & model of painter Adrien Le Mayeur (photo: Charles Breijer) 1947-1953

Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur (1880 – 1958) was a Belgian painter from Brussels who lived the last part of his life in Bali. Adrien came to Bali in 1932. He was fascinated by Balinese culture, the people’s traditional way of life, the temple rituals and local dances. He was also impressed by the light, color and beauty of the surroundings in the then still quite unspoilt island.
Le Mayeur rented a house in banjar Kelandis, Denpasar, where he got acquainted with 15-year-old legong dancer, Ni Nyoman Pollok, known by her nickname Ni Pollok. A number of Le Mayeur’s Bali works using Ni Pollok as model were exhibited in Singapore for the first time in 1933, which turned to be a very successful exhibition and made him more widely known. Returning from Singapore, Le Mayeur bought a piece of land at Sanur beach and built a house, which was also his studio. After three years working together, in 1935, Le Mayeur and Pollok got married. Le Mayeur kept on painting with his wife as his model during their married life.
During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in World War II Le Mayeur was put under house arrest by the Japanese authorities. He continued painting, however, often painting on rice sack cloth and other surfaces he could find. After the war Le Mayeur’s reputation grew at steady pace.
Years after the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, the Indonesian Minister for Education and Culture visited Le Mayeur and Ni Pollok at their house in 1956. He was greatly impressed with the painter’s work and therefore suggested to the couple that their house and all its contents should be preserved as a museum. Le Mayeur agreed to the idea and since then he worked harder to add more collections to the house and to increase the quality of his works as well. On 28 August 1957 a Deed of Conveyance was signed, stating that Le Mayeur had given all his possessions including the land, his house with all its contents to Ni Pollok as a gift. And at the same moment, Ni Pollok then conveyed what she had inherited from her husband to the Government of Indonesia to be used as a museum.
In 1958 Le Mayeur suffered from a severe ear cancer, and accompanied by Ni Pollok he returned to Belgium to have a medical treatment. After two months in Belgium, the 78-year old painter died and was buried in Ixelles, Brussels. Ni Pollok then returned home to take care of her house which had become the Le Mayeur Museum. She stayed there until her death on 18 July 1985 at the age of 68. Le Mayeur and Ni Pollok’s home is kept in its original condition and is still a museum.

The ear plugs, worn by Ni Pollok in this photo, were made of copper and the space inside was used to store tobacco for betel-chewing. The betel (Piper betle) is the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and kava. It is valued both as a mild stimulant and for its medicinal properties. Betel leaf is mostly consumed in Asia, as betel quid or in paan, with or without tobacco, in an addictive psycho-stimulating and euphoria-inducing formulation with adverse health effects.
Nederlands Fotomusem

Detail from a Le Mayeur's painting

Detail from a Le Mayeur’s painting

Ο Αντριέν-Ζαν Λε Μαγέρ (1880 – 1958) ήταν ένας Βέλγος ζωγράφος που έγινε γνωστός για τους πίνακες που ζωγράφισε στην τελευταία περίοδο της ζωής του, στο Μπαλί. Το 1932, επισκέφτηκε το νησί της Ινδονησίας και εντυπωσιάστηκε από την ντόπια κουλτούρα, τον τρόπο ζωής των ανθρώπων, και τη φυσική ομορφιά του τόπου.
Εκεί γνώρισε τη 15χρονη χορεύτρια τοπικών χορών Νι Πόλλοκ, που πόζαρε για τους πίνακες του. Τον επόμενο χρόνο, μετά από μια επιτυχημένη έκθεση στη Σιγκαπούρη, αποφάσισε να εγκατασταθεί μόνιμα στο Μπαλί. Αγόρασε μια έκταση στα νότια του Μπαλί και έφτιαξε ένα σπίτι που έγινε το στούντιο του. Το 1935 παντρεύτηκε την Νι Πόλλοκ που έγινε το μόνιμο μοντέλο στα έργα του.
Οι μετά-ιμπρεσιονιστικοί πίνακες του Λε Μαγέρ, επηρεασμένοι από το νέο περιβάλλον του, τον έκαναν διάσημο τα επόμενα χρόνια.
Το 1958, προσβλήθηκε από καρκίνο στο αυτί, και αναγκάστηκε να πάει στις Βρυξέλλες για θεραπεία. Πέθανε την ίδια χρονιά σε ηλικία 78 χρονών. Μετά το θάνατο και της γυναίκας του, το 1985, το σπίτι τους μεταβιβάστηκε στο κράτος και έγινε μουσείο.

Όπως φαίνεται στη φωτογραφία της Νι Πόλλοκ, μέρος της παράδοσης στο Μπαλί ήταν να έχουν οι γυναίκες ακάλυπτο το πάνω μέρος του σώματος τους, όπως και το ear plug που είναι περασμένο στο λοβό του αυτιού της. Αυτό χρησίμευε και ως δοχείο ενός παρασκευάσματος, δημοφιλούς στην Ν.Α Ασία, από φύλλα betel και ταμπάκο. Το μάσημα του betel quid έχει ευφορικές και διεγερτικές ιδιότητες αλλά δυσμενείς επιπτώσεις στην υγεία.

Rocky Marciano vs Jersey Joe Walcott, 1952


Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

1952 Jersey Joe Walcott - Rocky Marciano

Rocky Marciano vs Jersey Joe Walcott, (Photo: Herb Scharfman / Collection Bettmann / Getty images) 1952

In 1951, after five attempts and 20 years, Jersey Joe Walcott (Arnold Raymond Cream, 1914–1994) finally win the Heavyweight Championship, at age 37. At that time, he was the oldest-ever heavyweight champion in history.
On September 23, 1952, he defended his title for the second time. His opponent was Rocky Marciano.
Rocky Marciano (Rocco Francis Marchegiano, 1923–1969) was special because he had everything working against him, from his short stature to his advanced age. He was a failed Italian ballplayer who had boxed a bit in the army and he was well into his 20s before he seriously pursued boxing.
When, trainer Lou Duva, first saw Marciano, he said: “This guy can’t even walk, but whenever he landed a punch, the other guy would go spinning like a top.” According to Duva, Marciano’s pride in being champion kept him on top. “He used to tell me, ‘Nothing makes me feel better than to walk into a restaurant and hear someone say Hi champ.'”
Rocky Marciano’s rise through boxing’s ranks was spectacular. He rose to the challenge, cleaning out the heavyweight division with his hammer-like fists and amassing a formidable record of 42-0 with 37 knockouts (Kos). But still there were those who questioned his abilities. Marciano was wild and often clumsy. Joe Walcott would call his style “amateurish”.
Marciano faced the World Heavyweight Champion, Jersey Joe Walcott, at the Municipal stadium, in Philadelphia on September 23, 1952. Despite his advanced age of 38-years-old, Walcott was supremely confident of beating Rocky beforehand and started the fight fast. Only a minute into the fight, Walcott rocked Marciano with a straight right hand that forced Rocky to clinch. As soon as the two were separated, Jersey Joe gifted Marciano with his first knockdown at the end of a short left hook. Rocky got up at the count of four, ignoring the roars of his corner to stay down for an eight-count, and tried to redeem himself, but Walcott had him outclassed. Marciano walked through punches that would have broken an ordinary man’s jaw. At the close of round twelve, Jersey Joe lead by scores of 8-4, 7-5 and 7-4-1. By the thirteenth round, Rocky had no chance of a decision win and came out of his corner looking for the kill. Just over half a minute into the round, Marciano bullied Walcott into a corner. Walcott feinted with the left hand and followed with the right – one of his signature moves – but Marciano didn’t flinch. Rocky plowed his right hand into Walcott’s undefended face before he could deliver the goods, snapping his head back in one of the greatest one-punch knockouts in boxing history.
The Philadelphia Municipal Stadium went wild. Marciano was the new World Heavyweight Champion.
In his dressing room, the former champion tried in vain to recall what had happened. “I don’t remember anything. I don’t know if it was a right or a left. I wasn’t tired. I felt good. I was setting my own pace. Then – BANG! It hit me. I still don’t know what hit me. I couldn’t even try to get up.”
The two would meet again in a rematch, three months later. Walcott was knocked out in the first round and never fought again. Rocky would remain champion until 1955 as he retired with a perfect 49-0 (43 KOs) record.
On Aug. 31, 1969, Marciano died in a plane crash. Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott were at his wake. “Walcott walked to the casket and collapsed, he was crying so much.”
Wikipeadia: Rocky_Marciano
Wikipedia: Jersey_Joe_Walcott

Το 1951, ο Τζέρσυ Τζο Γουόλκοτ, σε ηλικία 38 ετών έγινε παγκόσμιος πρωταθλητής πυγμαχίας βαρέων βαρών. Ήταν ο μεγαλύτερος σε ηλικία πυγμάχος που κατακτούσε αυτό τον τίτλο. Την επόμενη χρονιά θα υπερασπιζόταν τον τίτλο του απέναντι σ’ έναν αδέξιο 29χρονο Ιταλό, πρώην αθλητή του ράγκπυ.
Ο Ρόκυ Μαρσιάνο, ωστόσο ήταν μοναδική περίπτωση. Δεν είχε ούτε τη σωματοδομή ούτε την τεχνική ενός πρωτοκλασάτου πυγμάχου. Είχε όμως απίστευτη θέληση, μια γροθιά δυναμίτη και σαγόνι από γρανίτη. Κατάφερε να κερδίσει 42 αγώνες στη σειρά, τους 37 με νοκάουτ, πριν να διεκδικήσει τον τίτλο από τον Γουόλκοτ.
Οι δύο πυγμάχοι συναντήθηκαν στις 23 Σεπτεμβρίου του 1952, στη Φιλαδέλφεια, για έναν αγώνα που έμελλε να καταγραφεί ως ένας από τους 10 σπουδαιότερους στην ιστορία της πυγμαχίας.
Παρά την ηλικία του ο Γουόλκοτ, ξεκίνησε εντυπωσιακά τον αγώνα. Θεωρούσε τον αντίπαλο του “ερασιτέχνη” και με τον αέρα του πρωταθλητή, κατάφερε από τον πρώτο γύρο, να ρίξει τον Μαρσιάνο νοκντάουν. Ήταν η πρώτη φορά στην καριέρα του που ο Ρόκυ έπεφτε στο ρίνγκ. Στους επόμενους γύρους, η υπεροχή του Γουόλκοτ ήταν καθολική. Ο Μαρσιάνο είχε σχεδόν τυφλωθεί από τα χτυπήματα στο πρόσωπο, αλλά άντεχε ακόμα. Στο τέλος του 12ου γύρου, οι ελπίδες του Μαρσιάνο να κερδίσει στα σημεία ήταν ελάχιστες. Στον 13ο γύρο όμως μπήκε αποφασισμένος να τελειώσει τον αγώνα όπως ήξερε. Ο Γουόλκοτ, οπισθοχώρησε στα σχοινιά και ετοιμάστηκε να κάνει τη  χαρακτηριστική του κίνηση. Αμύνθηκε με το αριστερό, προετοιμάζοντας τη δεξιά γροθιά του για ένα ισχυρό γυριστό χτύπημα. Πριν προλάβει ν’ ολοκληρώσει την κίνηση του, πάνω στη στιγμή, η “σιδερένια” γροθιά του Μαρσιάνο τον άφησε στον τόπο, αναίσθητο. Μια γροθιά που έμεινε στην ιστορία ως “Suzie Q” και έδωσε τον τίτλο του Παγκόσμιου Πρωταθλητή Βαρέων Βαρών στον Ρόκυ Μαρσιάνο. Ο Γουόλκοτ, δεν κατάλαβε ποτέ τι τον χτύπησε. Αφού συνήλθε, αργότερα, ρωτούσε τι συνέβη.
Μετά από τρεις μήνες ο Γουόλκοτ θέλησε να πάρει τη ρεβάνς, αλλά βρέθηκε νοκάουτ από τον πρώτο κιόλας γύρο. Μετά σταμάτησε την πυγμαχία.
Ο Ρόκυ παρέμεινε πρωταθλητής μέχρι το 1955, που αποσύρθηκε. Είναι ο μόνος πυγμάχος στην ιστορία που δεν έχασε ποτέ στην καριέρα του, έχοντας 49 νίκες με 43 νοκάουτ.
Τον Αύγουστο του 1963, ο Μαρσιάνο σκοτώθηκε σε αεροπορικό δυστύχημα. Παρών στην κηδεία του και βαθιά συγκινημένος ήταν και ο πρώην αντίπαλος του, Τζέρσυ Τζο Γουόλκοτ.