Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Boston Red Sox

Ice Hockey in the Desert – Vegas Golden Knights Are NHL’s Golden Team


Just a year ago, Las Vegas’ professional hockey team did not exist. But this past October, the Golden Knights became the first expansion team in NFL history to win its first three games and are now leading the National Hockey League’s Western division. The team’s most recent victory came on December 23, when they bested the Washington Capitals, 3-0, before more than 17,000 hockey fans in the newly constructed T-Mobile Arena. Bryce Harper, a Vegas native who plays for the Washington Nationals (talk about divided loyalties!) dropped the game’s first puck.

Bryce Harper (center, right) dropping the first puck.

Because this is Vegas, the game, and everything that surrounds an athletic event, was over the top. Before the players hit the ice, a black knight waving the opponent’s flag challenged the golden knight. The outcome was never in doubt, with the winning banner being placed in a miniature castle. Drummers beat on drums with flashing lights as cheerleaders in gold costumes led the crowd with gold shakers. And when it was time to clean the ice, young women dressed in abbreviated knight costumes raced around the rink, pushing golden shovels. 

The Golden Knight drink served at the Mandarin Oriental.

Ice hockey? In Vegas? Where it never snows and the thermometer rarely gets into the freezing zone? Surprisingly, there was so much pent-up demand for professional hockey in Vegas that support grew quickly for forming an expansion team and building an arena where they could play, sharing that space with other more Vegas-like events, like prize fights and concerts. The enthusiasm for the Knights has spread; black and gold jerseys are on sale at the airport and in hotels, and restaurants are serving drinks in honor of the team.

The Knights inaugural home game against the Arizona Coyotes on October 10, began on a somber note. On October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire from a window high up in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing 58 and injuring 546 people. Before the game, the team honored the victims and appealed for donations to its charitable arm. In the aftermath of the mass shooting, the city is still healing with #vegasstrong seen everywhere. Security at the arena was extremely tight. There were no complaints.

Sports have a remarkable therapeutic effect in the wake of tragedy. After 9/11, New York was uplifted watching the Yankees reach the World Series. In 2013, the Tsarnaev brothers set off pressure cooker bombs during the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds of others. The Boston Red Sox went on that year to win the World Series, giving the city a way to unite. This November, the Houston Astros took that World Series crown, allowing a city devastated by Hurricane Harvey to find something to cheer about.

There is, of course, a limit to what sports can do to soothe those who have been scarred by violence. In Vegas, the open space where the Harvest Music Festival was held, where so many died, remains silent and dark, an eerie reminder of what happened that evening. But looking at that sold out crowd on December 23 in the T-Mobile Arena, it was clear that Vegas is strong and like so many other cities before, will not only survive but thrive. Landing a professional hockey team is just the first step in turning Vegas into a sports city. In 2020, the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders will relocate to a brand new domed stadium in Vegas. Another team to cheer about, another way to bring people together, something we badly need, and not just in Vegas.

Patriots Day – Profiles in Courage


What should have been a day of celebration turned into a day of tragedy when two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, planted bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Now, nearly four years after that attack, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg produce a film that recreates, often in grisly detail, the aftermath of the explosion and how law enforcement, with the help of local citizens, come together to identify the killers.

Patriots Day follows a pattern that Berg/Wahlberg created for their previous film, Deepwater Horizon, also based on real events, in that case the explosion of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana that remains the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. (Read the review.) With each film, we are pulled in as we learn about the people involved – good guys and bad guys – who will play a role as the catastrophe unfolds. Each time, we brace ourselves, knowing all too well what’s to follow.

With Deepwater Horizon, Wahlberg played a real life character, Mike Williams, an electronics technician who worked on the rig. In Patriots Day, he plays the fictional Tommy Saunders, a Boston police sergeant who because of transgressions that are not explained (although the way he barrels into any situation portrays him as a management nightmare), he is assigned marathon duty as punishment. He complains to his wife, Carol (Michelle Monaghan), about wearing the day-glo vest that makes him look like a clown. Saunders prefers to be at the center of the action and this inconvenient assignment will do just that – placing him near the finish line when the bombs go off.

While Saunders is perhaps a composite of the many police officers who served Boston at that time, the film’s other characters are based on real life figures. Christopher O’Shea and Rachel Brosnahan play a married couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who come to watch the marathon. During a bedroom scene in their apartment, the camera zeroes in on their legs, a foreshadowing of the devastating injuries they will suffer because of the blast.


Michelle Monaghan

Jake Picking plays the enthusiastic and fresh-faced MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, thrilled when an MIT grad student agrees to go to a concert with him. Collier, refusing to give up his weapon, will be shot in his patrol car by Tamerlan.

During rescue operations, Steve Woolfenden (Dustin Tucker) is separated from his three year-old son, Leo (an adorable Lucas Thor Kelley). Father and son are later reunited at the hospital.

Our first glimpse into the Tsarnaev home shows Tamerlan and Dzhokhar relaxing in the living room watching TV, while Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist, in a chilling departure from her Supergirl persona), takes care of their little girl. Any semblance of normalcy, however, is dashed when the camera zooms in on Tamerlan packing a pressure cooker with metal parts.

Tamerlan is portrayed as the brains behind the operation, frequently bullying his brother into following his lead. The pair, Tamerlan wearing a black hat, Dzhokhar a white one, wind their way through the marathon crowds, finally depositing their lethal packages at two points and then leaving. Later, they watch coverage of the explosions from home, pleased with the carnage they have caused.

Video of the actual explosions played again and again on TV. In the film, however, Berg/Wahlberg go further, showing the aftermath, the injured runners and spectators, the blood-soaked clothing and pavement, even a sneaker-shod foot off to the side. The body of the youngest victim, eight year-old Martin Richard, is covered in a tarp, left for hours after the area has been cleared until crime scene specialists can gather forensic evidence from his body. Guarding the body is a lone cop, tears streaming down his face when the ambulance finally departs.

What the public didn’t see after the bombings was the incredible response by law enforcement. Shortly after the event, the marathon area was flooded with FBI agents, police officers, and local and state government officials, including Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) who declares the bombing a terrorist event after examining bomb fragments. Taking over the investigation, he asks for a control center which is set up in the Black Falcon terminal on the South Boston waterfront. In that space, the marathon finish line area is meticulously recreated, with evidence collected after the bombing placed where it was found. Meanwhile, tech experts scroll through video of the marathon crowds and soon are able to isolate the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects. Wahlberg’s Saunders, who knows Boston’s streets, is called in to figure out which cameras should be checked for images of the bombers. Although DesLauriers is reluctant to release the brothers’ photos before they are confirmed as the bombers, he’s forced to do so when someone leaks the information to FOX-TV. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are watching in their living room when they see themselves on TV. They know they have to flee if they are going to get to their next target, New York.


Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, and John Goodman

They carjack a Mercedes SUV belonging to Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang from HBO’s Silicon Valley), who manages to escape and alert the authorities. Cornered in Waterford, the duo exchange gunfire with a growing throng of police officers, including Waterford’s Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons). This shoot out is dramatic, showing how the brothers, armed with pipe bombs, continued to keep the cops on the defensive.

Tamerlan is shot and then run over by his brother who escapes in the Mercedes SUV. With Dzhokhar on the run, the Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), closes down the city, asking people to shelter in their homes. The younger brother is discovered hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard and finally apprehended.

Berg splices in real footage from the marathon and several times we see the actual photos of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar flash across the screen. Alex Wolff (Dzhokhar) and Themo Melikidze (Tamerlan) are appropriately evil and creepy as the brothers bent on killing Americans. Particularly chilling, however, is Benoist as Tamerlan’s wife who converted to Islam and supported her husband’s efforts. She was never charged with a crime. Four people who were charged and sent to prison included Dzhokhar’s college friends who knew what he had done and never reported him.

Similar to what Berg/Wahlberg did with Deepwater Horizon, the real people involved with the event are interviewed at the end. The film ends with David Ortiz, along with police officers who were at the marathon, marching onto the field at Fenway Park, celebrating “Boston Strong.” The Boston Red Sox would go on to win the World Series, a well-deserved gift to a city that had seen too much tragedy.

Photos courtesy of CBS Films

One Life: Babe Ruth at the National Portrait Gallery


Even measured against today’s superstar standards, George Herman Ruth would rank among the very best. From the time he began his professional baseball career in 1914, Ruth was the most talked about and written about personality of his day. Yet, because certain areas of a celebrity’s life were deemed off limits, many facts about Ruth were never publicized. “One Life: Babe Ruth” at the National Portrait Gallery sheds a light on the star athlete we never knew.

EXHEE1704“Ruth was able to lead a private life,” said James Barber, historian and exhibition curator during the exhibition’s press opening. “It’s the difference between his era and our era.” Still, Barber pointed out that Ruth was the first athlete to have a publicist, Christy Walsh. Hardly a week went by when Ruth’s name wasn’t in the newspapers, particularly in the New York Daily News after he began playing for the New York Yankees. What was missing were those details about Ruth’s personal life that would most likely create tabloid headlines today, most notably when he and his wife, Helen, suddenly appeared with a 16 month-old girl named Dorothy. Despite dogged efforts by the press to uncover a birth certificate, none was ever found. On his death bed, Ruth told Dorothy that he was her biological father and she later learned that her biological mother was Juanita Jennings, one of Ruth’s many mistresses.

The National Portrait Gallery’s “One Life” exhibition series dedicates a full gallery to highlight the biography of one personality. Others who have had their lives covered in the space include Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ronald Reagan. Because the space is essentially one small room, what is included in the exhibition hits the highlights of the person’s life. While the basics about Ruth are covered, there are still many surprises.

EXHEE1703Ruth was born in 1895 in Pigtown, a working class area of Baltimore. His father ran a saloon and because young Ruth ran wild and often drank beer behind his father’s back, his home environment was thought to lack discipline. At age seven, he was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a combination of reformatory and orphanage. That exile proved to be a godsend for the young Ruth. Not only did he receive an education, but he learned to play baseball. Although Ruth was left-handed, the Xaverian Brothers who ran the school, insisted that the children write with their right hand. Throughout his life, Ruth was very proud of his handwriting. “His signature was letter perfect,” said Barber. “”He took special note when he signed baseballs and he probably signed hundreds of thousands in his time.”

Because he was raised in an orphanage, Ruth always devoted himself to charitable works and would make himself available to spend time with the children. One of the photos in the exhibition shows him at an orphanage in Tacoma, Washington. A young girl in the front row can be seen clutching a “Ruth’s Home Run” chocolate candy wrapper.

Babe Ruth

Ruth began his baseball career as a pitcher for Jack Dunn’s minor league Baltimore Orioles. (Legend has it that Ruth’s nickname came when he was dubbed “Dunnie’s babe.”) Dunn ran into financial problems and, forced to give up some of his best players, sold Ruth to the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 2014. Ironically, financial problems for the Sox’s owner, Harry Frazee, brought about the sale of Ruth to the New York Yankees. The rest, as they say, is history.

Notes along the exhibition’s walls tell Ruth’s story in succinct and cogent terms. The photos, several credited to anonymous photographers, show Ruth posing with his Red Sox teammates, in his Yankee uniform, and kissing his Yankee bat. A standout is the iconic photograph of an aging Ruth, his back to the camera and his number 3 visible on his uniform. Nat Fein took the photo in 1948, three days before Ruth’s death.

Babe Ruth

“Ruth Quits” and “Babe Ruth Dies” are the two New York Daily News front pages included in the exhibition. Ruth died on August 16, 1948. His open casket laid in state in Yankee stadium for two days. He’s buried in Valhalla, New York.

Ruth’s baseball records have all been broken. In 1974 Hank Aaron broke Ruth’s record for career home runs, a record that has since been surpassed by steroid-tainted Barry Bonds. In 1961, Roger Maris broke Ruth’s record for the most homers in a single season, although an asterisk plagued Maris’ accomplishment for decades because he played more games the Ruth to reach that milestone.

Records aside, Babe Ruth was one for the ages and for all ages. There will never be another player with his talent and charisma. He defined not only baseball but the era in which he lived. And the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition is the perfect way to reflect and celebrate this timeless hero.

“One Life: Babe Ruth”
National Portrait Gallery


Babe Ruth
by Nat Fein
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19cm x 23.3cm (7 1/2″ x 9 3/16″), Accurate National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Wife Stands by Babe and Defies Accuser
by Underwood & Underwood
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 15 × 20.3cm (5 7/8 × 8″)
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Babe Ruth in Yankee’s Uniform
by Unidentified Artist
c. 1920
Photo blow-up
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

Babe Ruth and other Red Sox pitchers
by Underwood & Underwood
Gelatin paper print
Image/Sheet: 16.5 x 24.6 cm (6 1/2 x 9 11/16″) National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Babe Ruth
by Paolo Garretto
Publication: New York World
Pastel, lithographic crayon and gouache on board Sheet (Accurate): 31.2 × 23.8cm (12 5/16 × 9 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution