Sunday, December 02, 2012

The LuLac Edition #2283, December 2nd, 2012

The late Francis "Yogi" Michael (right) with Mark Popple (left) from a May 1981 photo in the Citizen's Voice.


 It seems that every weekend, we seem to be writing about people we know who have passed on and touched our lives in some way. I met Francis Yogi Michael in the 80s when I was associated with the Wilkes Barre Kiwanis Club. Every year, the Kiwanis Club ran the Frank Walp Memorial Tournament in conjunction with the Wilkes Barre YMCA.  One of the nuts and bolts guys was Bill Dantona who was at the time an official with the old Franklin Federal in Wilkes Barre. Dantona was like a drill Sergeant giving us our assignments. I never followed wrestling, didn't like or understand the sport but volunteered anyway. When I told Dantona I had no clue about the sport, he gave me an unobtrusive assignment that would do no harm. As the time grew near for the event began,  I was stationed at the top of the steps in the King's gym that led to the men's locker room. A man told me he was was trying to get in to speak to another official in the lockeroom. I asked him if he had credentials or if he had a ticket for the event because Dantona and Second Vice President at the time, Frank Pasquini drilled it into all of us that this was a fundraising event. He looked at me and said, "A ticket, no but I'm supposed to be here. Really". He seemed like a normal fellow so I let him by. A few minutes later he emerged wearing a referee's uniform and said, "Are we good chief?" Thinking fast on my feet, I replied, "We're not only good, we're golden". He smiled and walked out to the gym floor to officiate. I was told later that the guy I stopped at the door was wrestling legend Yogi Michael.
A few years later I was in Abe's on South Main. Abe's has a men's room that is pretty small. So I was waiting to get in the occupied bathroom when Yogi emerged from it. He recognized me and said, "You got a ticket to get in?" I said, "No,  but I know a guy in a striped shirt that'll give me a pass." 
I thought of that story when I saw the upper banner of The Citizen's Voice that told me Yogi had died at a much too young age of 65. In a world where too many athletes, let alone people are chest thumpers, Yogi Michael was one of those guys that let his record speak for him. I never had a lot of interactions with the man but I do know this, I bet Michael never, ever uttered the phrase, "Don't you know who I am?" He was in five Hall of Fames that heralded his sports career. He influenced thousands of young athletes and students through his actions. He nurtured the sport that he loved. Quietly he made an impact. Wherever one's destination is after this life, if there is a gatekeeper and Yogi wants to pass, his words to me more than twenty five years ago will ring true, "I'm supposed to be here. Really".  God speed.


For those of a certain age, he was known as "Speedo". Earl Carroll was the lead singer for the doo wop group the Cadillacs. My very first memory of him was when I was a young kid listening to my sister's transistor radio. Dick Clark played that record, so did Sid Freedman on Bandstand on WNEP. Born in Harlem, Carroll formed the group in the 50s and had two hits, "Speedo" and "Gloria". He was a member of the Drifters for a while but then settled into a job as a custodian for the New York City public school system. When Sha Na Na started their careers in the early 1970s, do wop groups who were the real thing became the rage. Carroll took advantage of those options but didn't quit his day job. The song remained on top of mind because of movies like "The Temptations" and "Goodfellows". Like any music fan, I was sad to hear that Carroll died especially since I saw him in Atlantic City in the 80s. But then my sadness turned to a smile when I heard the song. If Earl Carroll has a musical legacy, it is the fact that his songs, especially "Speedo", nearly six decades after its release, still makes us smile.


At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My brother was a student of the late Mr. Michael. Yogi set him on the right track and now he is a good family man making a decent wage. Your story about him was wonderful. There is nothing like LuLac when it comes to giving insight into an interesting and dedicated man.
I haven't posted in a while because of my work schedule, (I'm getting to love airport food!) but I do keep up. I have found it amusing that you have acquired a few haters who says you steal other people's work. LuLac tells stories, and I dare say you can't plagiarize stories like this, and others you have written.
Keep up the good work. And this is for your haters, you can't steal ideas when you write from the heart.

Helen Fulbright

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are so many expressions of sympathy for Yogi, is it both heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. Yogi was that type of guy Dave. You captured him. Stay well.

At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Pope George Ringo said...

60 Minutes did a profile of Earl Carroll about 15 years ago while he was still working as a school custodian.
All of the kids knew of his prior fame and all in all unlike many who came before him such as Clyde McPhatter, Earl seemed very content with his life.


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