On this day in 1927, a man whose Wikipedia entry was edited, via cell, from Minute Maid Park in the home half of the seventh was born. Television crews didn’t capture the edit, but they did capture the man himself as he waved feebly to the crowd of 38,602 baseball fans who applauded the infamous V-J Day celebrant on the occasion of his 81st birthday. How do I know? I was there. As luck would have it, not only was I there, I was seated next to a blogger. You’d think this was planned — Scott leaves house, “accidentally” meets blogger, bores wife with insider baseball for hours — but it wasn’t. Honest. But I digress.
The octogenarian in question, Glenn McDuffie, has convinced forensic artists and lie detectors he should remembered as the sailor who stopped to kiss a stranger on his way to his girlfriend’s apartment.* How his girlfriend, Ardith Bloomfield of 555 Crown Street felt about his iconic act of infidelity isn’t only lost to history, but McDuffie too: he went to sea and never saw her again.** McDuffie’s not the only person to claim the mantle of Great American Osculator. He’s not even named as a potential candidate in the Life’s 1980 attempt to ferret the identities of the infamous kisser and kissee.
When you think about it, it’s only fitting he celebrated his birthday at major sporting event, since major sporting events celebrate kissing for a minute or two every game.*** His kiss, however, has the benefit of inadvertant artfullness:
Eisenstaedt’s photo is a perfect Renaissance perspective, with the foreground directly on the lower part of the bowtie, with big buildings converging diagonally toward the vanishing point, and a giant sign with a paternal figure promoting Ruppert Beer right on the point. This sailor and this nurse are surrounded by big buildings, by silver trolley tracks, by neon signs, and by the sky, but also by an assortment of other people. About twenty feet away there is a second sailor (and, in some croppings, a third), smiling on the couple. Another comment is suggested by the huge neon sign just to their right, which advertises BOND, then America’s biggest ready-made clothing store [...] The sign that proclaims the bond between this primal couple also highlights the more complex bonds that hold together the city, the country, maybe even the world. The other people in the picture are participants in the crowd’s festivities, but also, like ourselves, spectators of the couple’s embrace. They are both wearing uniforms, which mark them as “public servants” and separate them from the multitude of civilians (like ourselves) who surround them and whom they serve. His uniform is black, hers white. The contrast between them, sharpened by black-and-white film, heightens the clinch that binds them together.
And the man responsible for this quintessential American photograph? A German Jewish refugee named Alfred Eisenstaedt whose previous claim to fame was a portrait of Goebbels the Nazi Propaganda Minister only found unflattering after he learned Eisenstaedt was Jewish. Because before, I mean, I think we’d all hit that.****
*Only F. Lee Bailey remains skeptical. “If you honestly believe something you won’t flunk a polygraph,” the man who orchestrated O.J. Simpson’s defense told ABC news in 2007. Shortly after the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, he “stopped [Simpson's polygraph test] because it was not going well.” Seems Simpson didn’t honestly believe in his innocence in June 1994. (Nor since, for that matter.)
**Also lost to history: Ebbets Field. The Jackie Robinson Apartments — artfully, if a bit ominously, framed by yours truly courtesy of Google Street View — now occupy that block.
***Just like the video, today’s “Kiss Cam” featured a marriage proposal. It went better than this one, but maybe only barely: a quick chaste peck, a man on his knee, a woman’s face screwed as if scalded, then the stadium PA blared “SHE SAID YES!” and the fancy digital scoreboard cut to a shot of the clunky, retro scoreboard flashing “SHE SAID YES!” I suspect tears, recriminations, then years of therapy for all involved.
****In the face with a shovel until it whimpered. Then some more.